Jared Southard got used to seeing the stands at Rouse filled with more than just fans every Friday night when he took the mound.
A wall of MLB scouts were in attendance for nearly every start he made with the Raiders this season, and the Angels took the Texas commit with the 601st overall pick in the 20th round of the MLB draft last week.
Southard announced on Twitter soon after the draft that he would bypass the big leagues for the time being and stick with his commitment to the Longhorns.
“Going to Texas has always been a dream of mine,” Southard said earlier this year. “I couldn’t pass it up. Whatever route I take, I hope to play to the best of my ability. I want to win and I want to have a good time doing it.”
Having fun has always been a big part of why Southard plays baseball, and it’s part of the reason the Raiders were so successful this season.
After a rocky preseason, Rouse went undefeated and won the District 17-5A title with Southard being named league MVP. It was the third straight playoff appearance for the Raiders, a remarkable turnaround after a winless district season during Southard’s freshman year.
“Everybody wanted to win and they weren’t selfish,” Southard said. “You’ve got to buy into the program and trust in (head coach Chad) Krempin because he wants to win too.”
Growing up, Southard did it all in terms of sports, playing football, basketball, lacrosse and wrestling.
When he was still in elementary school, he caught a pass from his longtime teammate and Rouse starting quarterback Ethan Moore when their youth team was facing Westlake. As he was being tackled, he flipped the ball to another player, who scored and helped the young Raiders win.
But he fell in love with baseball early on when he was playing tee-ball.
He got to Rouse his freshman year, made the varsity squad and things took off from there.
“It’s been a grind,” he said.
Krempin has been a head coach at the highs school level for 17 seasons, and he’s seen other pitchers with the kind of stuff and velocity Southard has. He said the biggest difference this season was the maturity and commitment.
“Kids get to a certain age and they see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Krempin said. “They have a lot of opportunities in front of them. He’s got a great work ethic. All the time he’s logged in every aspect, he’s been really dedicated and really focused.”
Texas baseball coach David Pierce agrees that his work ethic stands out.
“When I think of Jared, power right-hander comes to mind,” Pierce said when Southard signed with the Longhorns. “He looks the part and his arm is explosive. He continues to work hard to be the best he can be. Jared's ceiling is tremendously high and he has a chance to reach it because he is a grinder.”
Southard has seen the scouts — they’ve been around in one way or another since his sophomore season — but eventually, they just became more faces in the crowd.
He has relied on his family, coaches and faith to keep him grounded.
“There’s pressure, but that’s part of the game,” he said. “There’s no hiding from (the scouts). They’re going to be there for the rest of my career. They’re looking to see what kind of person you are. At the end of the day, I’m trying to win a ballgame for my team.”