POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Dexter Jordan (Hattiesburg) chose to attend Pearl River last summer with Wednesday in mind. He trusted that the reigning MACJC Champion Wildcats would help get him selected in the MLB Draft.
On Wednesday, his big dream became a reality when the Houston Astros selected the PRCC second baseman in the 16thround with the 496thoverall pick.
Jordan is the second Wildcat in as many seasons to be drafted directly out of Pearl River, joining 2018 Los Angeles Dodgers selection Simon "Meaux" Landry; the power-hitting first baseman was a 22ndround selection. Former Wildcat right-hander and current Mississippi State flame thrower Colby White was also drafted this year, going to the Tampa Bay Rays in the sixth round.
"This is a special place. It has become evident throughout our program that young men can come in with big dreams and aspirations and through hard work, commitment and teamwork, they're able to reach their lofty goals," Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. "As our program has grown, days like the last few during the MLB Draft have become more realistic for our young men. That's a credit to the players first but also to our coaching staff."
Days like Wednesday help to hit home part of why Avalon got into coaching.
"For every player we coach, the ultimate dream is to see them play professional baseball," he said. "Anytime any of these young men get that rare opportunity, you understand how special it is for their family and the program."
Jordan had heard from multiple organizations leading up to the draft and knew there was a good chance he would hear his name called by a Major League team. Still, the freshman slugger admitted there was plenty of anxiousness that filled his days as he waited for his phone to buzz with "The Call."
"I was trying to do normal things," Jordan said of the wait. "I was going to the cage, working out, got to watch my little brother play basketball, keeping God in my prayers and He made my dream come true."
Jordan said he was sitting at home watching TV when the Astros called.
"It only takes one team to believe in you and the Astros believed in me," he said.
Jordan came to Poplarville with a power hitter's reputation. He didn't disappoint. All the 6-foot, 190-pound Jordan did was hit 18 homers, good enough for fourth among NJCAA D-II batters and one off of Landry's single-season program record.
Jordan's .649 slugging percentage and 66 RBIs were tops on the Wildcats. He also boasted a .284 batting average and .389 on-base percentage.
Jordan credited Avalon and assistant coaches Anthony Izzio and Drew LaBounty for helping him achieve his dream.
"That's a hard working environment. Coach Avalon, Izzio and LaBounty, they don't take any days off. The coaches really pushed me," he said. "They're great coaches, atmosphere and fans. Everything about that campus means winning. I really thank Pearl River for everything."
Avalon beamed with pride when asked about Jordan's selection.
"I'm really excited for Dexter. He's a young man who came in with a goal of being drafted and playing professional baseball. He understood the improvements he needed to make, especially defensively," Avalon said. "A lot of credit goes to him and Coach (Drew) LaBounty for the extra work they put in."
While Jordan achieved one of his goals Wednesday, Avalon said bringing in the talented Hattiesburg product was a no brainer and a win-win for everyone involved.
"Dexter was a centerpiece in our lineup who helped us make a World Series run. I'm incredibly proud of that, but also proud that this program helped him reach his goals," he said. "That's what we're here for. Our ultimate goal is to help these young men be successful in baseball but also in life and to accomplish their dreams."
The Rays made White the 188thoverall selection of the draft on Tuesday.
"Colby's a young man from Foxworth, Mississippi who believed in himself and this program," Avalon said. "When we first arrived on campus (as a staff), Colby was a raw kid with a lot of potential and with Coach Izzio's help he continually got better during his two seasons with us and then his junior season at Mississippi State. He showed a tremendous worth ethic and really focused on being more consistent and maturing on the mound.
"Being drafted is a credit to him for having a dream, putting the work in and ultimately achieving his dream."
White was a two-time All-MACJC selection, earning a spot on the second team as a freshman before landing on the first team following his sophomore season. White was 4-1 as a freshman and 5-2 with eight saves as a sophomore. In 31 innings, White struck out 51 batters against 10 walks.
Utilized out of the bullpen at MSU, White boasts a 3.28 ERA with 45 strikeouts against just seven walks in 24 2/3 innings. The Bulldogs are set to host Stanford in the Starkville Super Regional, which begins Saturday.
Jordan was the 29thformer Wildcat selected in the MLB Draft since 1983. In addition to White and Landy, recent selections include Milwaukee Brewers 2016 19thround selection Zach Clark and Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 fourth round selection Jacob Taylor. Additionally, Ryan Deemes was a 36thselection by Houston in 2015, Braxton Lee was selected in the 12thround of the '14 draft by Tampa Bay, Taylor Byrd was a seventh rounder in '14 by Seattle, Christian Talley went in the 26thround of the '13 draft to Tampa Bay and Brandon Fry was an 18throunder of the San Diego Padres in 2013.