Jordan Guthrie would be the ace on almost any other team.
But on a Bearcat baseball squad featuring national prospect Keegan Thompson, the lefty has understandably accepted his role as a No. 2 pitcher.
On Thursday morning at Cullman High, Guthrie played second fiddle to no one, signing a letter of intent to attend and play baseball at Snead State. The fun-loving senior was flanked by his parents, coaches — both current and future — and an administrator as he made his commitment official.
“I’ve always wanted to play college baseball and go on to the next level,” Guthrie said. “For Snead to give me a scholarship and give me an opportunity, it’s really exciting.”
From the coaches to the atmosphere to the comfortability, there was a lot for the southpaw hurler to like about the Parsons. On the flip side, there was no shortage of reasons the folks at Snead were clamoring to sign Guthrie, starting with his ability to contribute on the mound.
“He’s a big, strong left-handed kid,” said Parsons’ head coach Gerry Ledbetter, who was on hand for Guthrie’s big day. “Left-handed pitchers that can throw don’t come along every day.”
In addition to on-field performance, Ledbetter said he and his coaching staff heavily emphasize academic excellence. The team’s current 47-man roster is 100 percent academically eligible and touts a collective 3.08 GPA.
Ledbetter only sees his latest addition making that statistic even higher.
“I think we’re getting a real good kid who will do anything we ask him to do,” the coach said. “He’ll work hard because every kid we’ve gotten from Cullman has been a hard-worker and made good grades.”
Snead State’s baseball program is already home to three former Bearcats — sophomores Daniel Moore and Jesse Thomas, as well as freshman Jakob Kirkwood, who made the trip to Cullman to welcome Guthrie to the Parson family.
“They’re all good representatives of Snead and Cullman,” Ledbetter said.
Brent Patterson has been the head coach for the Bearcats while all four players have spent their time with the Black and Gold. He’s watched Guthrie develop since he joined the varsity squad his freshman season, so he certainly wasn’t surprised to see the lefty’s hard work pay off on Thursday.
“Jordan’s come so far in the last four years,” Patterson said. “The progression he’s made from year to year is incredible. For him to be able to move on and go to the next level, I think it’s just a stepping stone.”
Guthrie is coming off a 6-4 season in 2012 with 73 innings in 13 appearances. He came up clutch in Cullman’s first-round series against Madison County, leading the Bearcats to a 3-1 victory in Game 1 with a eight-strikeout, seven-inning outing. After Guthrie allowed his lone run in the third inning, he retired 12 of the next 14 Tiger batters to close out the ballgame.
Patterson sure is glad to have Thompson and Guthrie as a 1-2 punch for one more season, not just for their athletic prowess, but also for their leadership.
“To have him and Keegan both in the rotation have run them out there two to three times a week is good to know,” the coach said. “And it’s good for our younger pitchers to have pitchers like them to look up to because both are hard workers and both are the ultimate team guys.
“They’ll leave a legacy. Their impact will be felt long after they’re gone.”
Guthrie plans to major in education with hopes of one day becoming a teacher and coach at Cullman High, a place he holds near and dear to his heart.
“It’s meant the world to me,” he said of his time as a Bearcat. “I’ve loved every second of it. I really wish I didn’t have to leave. I’m really going to miss it.”
Don’t forget Guthrie still has one season left in a Black and Gold uniform, though. The senior only has one expectation for how the upcoming spring will unfold.
“I want a state championsip. That’s the ultimate goal, of course,” Guthrie said. “I feel as though we have a great team. It’s a great year to do it.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.