As he strides to the plate, No. 10 for Ware County doesn’t say a word, choosing instead to let his bat do the talking once he gets into the batter’s box. His body is controlled by muscle memory gained from hundreds of hours in the batting cage; his mind is an open book.
“I try to work on my swing during practice, but when I get to the plate I try to clear my mind,” Gators senior Jet Thomas said. That’s Jet “like a plane,” his email address reminds people.
Thomas leads his Ware County teammates with a quiet demeanor and confidence.
“Jet is not a man of many words,” Ware County baseball coach Tony Yeomans said. “He leads by example.”
Coaches encourage younger players to duplicate Thomas’s actions off the field and his level of play on the field. When it comes to studying the game of baseball, Thomas becomes philosophical.
“My favorite part of the game is that you can’t kill the clock,” Thomas said. “You’ve got to give the other man his chance.”
Sage words coming from such a young player. He has learned much over the past 12 years. His other piece of advice for up and coming players: “I never step on the line,” he says of his own baseball superstition.
A three-year starter, Thomas played most positions on the field – centerfield, pitcher, shortstop and catcher – for Yeomans’ Ware County team. He has also played travel baseball with the Coastal Prospects out of Jacksonville to hone his skills.
“I play year-round, so I am constantly working on my game,” Thomas said.
A natural righty/righty in batting and throwing, he has been a first team all-region performer the past two seasons. As a junior he batted .346 with 10 doubles and two homeruns. Now at 6’1” and 180-pounds, Thomas has been re-attracting the attention of college scouts after his original scholarship fell through.
Everything was going great when he signed a scholarship to play baseball for Armstrong State University in Savannah, a school with a strong baseball tradition. But that came crashing down with Armstrong’s merger with Georgia Southern University, cancelling the Pirates baseball team and nullifying his scholarship. Now, he has begun making visits again to schools like Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus and East Georgia State College in Swainsboro. Although it sounds like a grind to begin the process again, Thomas admitted he enjoys being recruited. Baseball observers say he will be a bargain for the lucky college who gets him to sign on the dotted line.
“I see Jet playing at the next level,” Yeomans said. “Not only playing but competing and making a difference on the team he is playing for. Someone will be fortunate to have Jet on their team.”
Thomas discovered baseball when he was five-years-old playing t-ball for the first time. From there, he was bitten by the bug and started played recreation league ball and travel ball. In seventh grade he was able to play for the Waycross Middle School Bulldogs.
“My first big hit was my first middle school homerun in seventh grade,” Thomas said.
From there it was on to Ware County High School, where he got the chance to play as a freshman. He became a starter for Yeomans as a sophomore and was good enough to be named all-region.
“Coach Yeomans has helped me by pushing me to become a better player,” Thomas said.
His most memorable play came in a game against the Lowndes County Vikings when he made a diving catch that saved the game.
“Although Jet is very balanced in all aspects of his game, I would have to say that his defensive play and his throwing accuracy from the outfield is at the top of his game,” Yeomans said. “He is one of the best outfielders that I have coached in my career.”
Away from the baseball diamond, Thomas is like most young men his age. The son of Tony and Tina Thomas of Waycross, he maintains a 3.0 GPA in the classroom, is on the A/B Honor Roll, and is a member of the Future Farmers of America.
“I fish, play basketball, and hang out with friends,” Thomas said.
Thomas would like to play baseball in college and study to teach special education. Of course, his ultimate sports dream would be a call on draft day from a major league club informing him he is going pro.
“Character, dedication, hard work, loyalty, and a fierce competitor,” Yeomans said. “Jet adds continuity, and he performs at a high level.”
Ware County Baseball
Written by: Rob Asbell
Photos by: Jennifer Carter Johnson
A Man of Few Words