E.A. Sports Today

Securing the future

Oxford’s Turner celebrates his signing to play baseball at West Georgia

Oxford pitcher Jarin Turner, flanked by his parents, talks about the significance of the day after signing to play baseball at West Georgia. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Oxford pitcher Jarin Turner made it official to the world Monday, signing to play baseball at the University of West Georgia and adding another big arm to the roster of pitchers who have gotten college or pro opportunities during the tenure of Yellow Jackets’ coach Wes Brooks.

A quick count shows Turner is the 40th Oxford pitcher to get a chance to play at the next level since Brooks became the Jackets’ head coach prior to the 2006 season.

“We hang our hat on pitchers,” Brooks said. “If I were a head football coach I’d want to develop quarterbacks, but I’m a head baseball coach so I want to develop pitchers – and hitters as well. Eighty percent of our practice is designed for pitchers and hitters.”

Turner signed with the Wolves after being committed to Alabama for the longest time. He committed to the Tide as a freshman and that pledge remained solid until around the time of the East Coast Pro tryouts at Choccolocco Park this past summer.

The new Alabama coaching staff apparently lost interest and stopped communicating with him, so Turner reopened his recruiting and West Georgia soon swept in to make the right-hander an offer.

“It was kind of one of those things like bad timing with everything,” Turner said. “Alabama decommitted towards the end of the summer and my elbow was messing up and a lot of schools were running out of scholarships. It wasn’t a quick decision, but it was kind of you’ve got to go with what you’ve got.

“I’m not saying West Georgia is all I had left. I had other offers, but that was what I felt was the best fit for me from what I had left.”

He now believes the smaller environment will give him a better opportunity to show his abilities.

West Georgia coach Skip Fite expects Turner to have an immediate impact on the Wolves’ pitching staff and be a factor in keeping them at the top of the Gulf South Conference “for years to come.” The Wolves signed former Turner teammate Brody Syer last year.

Turner was a threat on the mound and at the plate last season. He went 8-2 with three shutouts and an 0.97 ERA as a pitcher and hit .391 with 37 RBIs at the plate.

Brooks is convinced if Turner wasn’t pitching he would be a top five catching prospect in the state with pop; Alabama offered him as a catcher/hitter. As a pitcher, he’s probably in the top half of the 40-man legacy of pitchers Brooks has sent to the next level and the top three among the Jackets’ slider-sinker tall righties in the mold of Trey Pilkington.

Here’s a quick look at the Turner file:

• 20-game winner over his career.
• Last season batted .391 with two home runs and 37 RBIs.
• Went 8-2 with a 0.97 ERA as a pitcher, logging 77 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings.
• As a sophomore, pitched in Calhoun County Tournament finals, beat Pell City 1-0 in dueling gems, and beat Homewood in the playoffs.
• As a freshman, pitched against national No. 9 Sparkman and in the third round of the state playoffs against Cullman.

In other Oxford baseball news, Brooks said Monday four long-distance teams are coming in to play in the Choccolocco Park Experience next spring. Hickman (Mo.) is making a return trip and the Kewpies will be joined by Boonville, Mo., Hamburg, N.Y., and Grove City, Ohio. That is, of course, in addition to strong field of instate teams the even attracts.

Brooks also said the program plans to honor former Oxford baseball legend Randy Bussey in some fashion during the season. Bussey, who played on the Jackets’ 1978 state runner-up team and coached them to the 1989 state finals, passed away Oct. 30 at age 56.

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