By Rubin E. Grant
Jamie Harris knows a special baseball player when he sees him.
Several years ago, Harris laid eyes on Colton Lewis and noticed immediately that he was a gifted player.
“I had my eye on him when he started coming to our camps when he was 10 or 11 years old,” said Harris, the head baseball coach at Vestavia Hills High School. “You could tell he was going to be special.”
Harris was so convinced about Lewis’ ability that when Lewis reached high school as a freshman, Harris had him pitch on the varsity.
This spring as a senior, Lewis, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound left-handed pitcher/first baseman, showcased his impressive skills as the Rebels reached the AHSAA Class 7A quarterfinals and finished with a 27-11 record.
He batted .301 with a .445 on-base percentage and a .951 slugging percentage. He had two home runs, seven doubles, 28 runs batted in and 22 runs scored. On the mound, he was 6-2 with a 1.94 earned-run average and 98 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings pitched.
Rival coaches took note and tabbed Lewis as the 2019 Over the Mountain Journal Co-Player of the Year, along with Homewood senior pitcher Justin Perreault.
“Obviously I had a good season and I’m proud of all we accomplished as a team,” Lewis said. “I’m very honored. It means a lot to me.”
Harris practically gushes in praise of Lewis.
“Colton was a dream to coach,” Harris said. “He was our best player for three years and our hardest worker. When your best player is your hardest worker, you always have a chance to have a good team.”
Harris has witnessed Lewis’ passion for the game during the offseason. As he helped coach his son’s youth football team, Harris noticed Lewis working on his skills with his grandfather Bud Mollison.
‘Baseball Is Life’
“You couldn’t show up at Wald Park without seeing him and his granddad,” Harris said. “Baseball is life for him. He wasn’t concerned with girls or a lot of the other things high school students are interested in. He’s laser-focused on baseball.”
It’s been that way since Lewis was little, and his grandfather has been right alongside him every step of the way.
“I started playing when I was about 5 and started going to the batting cage when I was 7 or 8 with my grandfather,” Lewis said. “He’s been my teacher and my batting practice coach. We are very close. He lives only about five minutes away from us.”
This summer, Lewis will spend more time working out with his granddad and on his own as he gets ready to head to Jacksonville State. Lewis signed with the Gamecocks in November, choosing them over Samford and Tulane.
“It wasn’t too far from home, so my family can come watch me play,” Lewis explained. “I think I’ll get some playing time as a freshman and the new stadium they just built is very nice.
“They said I’ll play some first base, in the outfield and pitch a lot. I have just got to keep getting better.”
Harris believes Jacksonville State is getting a real gem in Lewis.
“I think he has a bright future and has a chance to help Jacksonville State as a two-way player, a left-handed hitter and pitcher,” Harris said. “If he had been a few inches taller, he probably could have gone to an SEC school.”
Two weeks ago, Lewis traveled to Oxford, Mississippi, to watch Jacksonville State play in a NCAA regional at Ole Miss. The Gamecocks reached the regional final before being eliminated by the host Rebels.
“That was a lot of fun watching them play,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, we can win a regional while I’m there.”
Lewis said he’s going to miss playing for Vestavia Hills, but he’s ready to move on.
“It’s hard to believe my high school career is over,” he said. “It seems like it wasn’t too long ago I was going up to the high school to watch them play. It’s kind of surreal that I won’t be playing there any longer, but at least I get to play another four years.”
Homewood’s Justin Perreault
The 5-foot-10, 135-pound Perreault is headed to University of Alabama Huntsville to play college ball.
He finished his senior season at Homewood with a 10-0 record, one save and an 0.85 ERA. He recorded 84 strikeouts in 66 innings pitched.
“He’s a special young man with a great work ethic,” Homewood pitching coach Keith Brown said. “I think pound-for-pound he was the best pitcher in the state.” See OTMJ’s feature story on Justin Perreault from our April 18 issue at otmj.com.