By Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter
West End High School senior Caleb Mayo has enjoyed success on the gridiron, hardwood and diamond during his prep athletic career.
Mayo chose to focus on basketball and baseball the past two years, and baseball is where his future lies beyond high school, as the talented pitcher/shortstop signed with Snead State Community College on Jan. 22 in Walnut Grove.
“Baseball is my first love,” Mayo said. “I’ve played it since kindergarten. It’s always been my No. 1 sport to play. I’ve always wanted to play somewhere in college. It didn’t really matter to me where, as long as I just got the opportunity to play. I really like Snead because it’s close to home, and I could live at home if I wanted to or I could live there.”
Snead State head coach Gerry Ledbetter said he was able to “really get a good look” at Mayo because he participated in the Parsons’ fall league in 2012.
“Caleb’s just a good all-around athlete,” Ledbetter said. “He can really run, he’s a good kid and he loves baseball. That’s what you look for, just somebody who loves the game, somebody who is going to make the grades and somebody that’s going to give you everything they’ve got.”
Ledbetter projects Mayo as a second baseman for the Parsons.
“The thing about Caleb is, he can play just about any position I need him to. He can play outfield, he can play second or he can play short. Caleb should come in and contribute. In junior college you only have them for two years, so they have to come in and help you right away.
“The thing these kids have to understand is they’ve got to make the grades, and that’s one thing I was really proud of this year. I had 47 kids, and all 47 were eligible. With my scholarship kids, the overall GPA was 3.08. That’s the thing [Snead State President] Dr. (Robert) Exley really emphasizes – the grades and graduating from junior college, and that’s what we want our kids to do. If they’re disciplined in the classroom they’ll be disciplined on the field.”
Mayo used Snead’s fall league to showcase his skills for Ledbetter and assistant coach Casey Underwood.
“I threw really well there and fielded really well, and I thought that was a big step in getting an opportunity to show him what else I had,” Mayo said.
Mayo, who joined the West End varsity baseball team as a freshman, is excited about the upcoming season. Former West End High standout Joe Payne succeeds Chad Hall as Patriot head coach.
“We all like Coach Payne and he likes us,” Mayo said. “He had the perfect game a couple of years ago, he struck out 20 or 21. He knows what he’s talking about, and if everybody will listen to him, we should have a good chance.”
Hall is happy for Mayo and expects him to excel for the Parsons.
“It’s great for Caleb, and I’m glad to see him get an opportunity to go play at Snead. I think he’ll go on beyond there and be able to sign somewhere,” Hall said. “Caleb’s a great athlete, has a great work ethic and is a competitor. He’s going to really get after it and do what he needs to do. Coach Payne really helped Caleb pitching-wise. He was really able to step in and help us out last year (on the mound), and I know he’ll do the same this year.”
Hall said Mayo has elevated his overall game by improving the consistency of his performance.
“Caleb’s always been a great athlete, but he would be up-and-down hitting-wise when he was younger, and the same thing fielding-wise. Just learning to concentrate and being consistent in everything he does on a daily basis, that’s where he’s improved the most to me.
“Watching him last year, he was consistent defensively. Every time we put him on the mound, we knew what we were going to get. Hitting-wise, he’s always going to be able to do something with it and drive the ball.
“Over this past summer I’ve seen his body change, and he’s physically gotten stronger. And when I watched him play this fall, you could tell that’s really helped him out. I’m excited to see him play at Snead just because I think he’s getting better and better as he goes.”
Mayo expressed gratitude to Hall and others for their support of his career.
“I want to thank God No. 1 and then my family,” Mayo said. “Coach Hall has been my baseball coach forever, and then Coach (Brent) Mashburn. I want to thank my family and my brother for always throwing with me in the backyard, and all my friends.”