In the span of just a few months, Joe Garry Jr.’s baseball career has gone from under the radar to over the moon.
About eight months ago, the Pascagoula senior was hearing from a handful of junior colleges while he sharpened his skills prior to his senior year.
Following a strong showing on the summer league circuit with the East Coast Sox, Garry has given top college programs and Major League scouts good reason to make the trek to his corner of Jackson County.
It was during a tournament in Jupiter, Florida, this past summer that Garry’s stock skyrocketed among pro scouts and college coaches.
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“I faced a couple of good Division I pitchers and a couple of players who were going pretty high in the draft and I did pretty good,” he said. “After my first couple of games, I had a few college coaches come talk to me and later in the tournament I had some pro scouts who came to talk to me. That was a surprise to me. Before that tournament, (attention from junior colleges) was all I saw.”
The 6-foot, 175-pound Garry worked out for a few scouts during his time in Florida and they came away impressed.
“On my way home, it was like a nine-hour drive back and I started getting some calls from like the Pirates and other pro teams,” he said. “Before I got home, they told me they were going to be here two days after I got home. They wanted to watch me take batting practice and things like that. Since then, it’s kind of blown up a little bit.”
“Blown up” may be a bit of an understatement for Garry, who has seen last year’s batting average of .254 improve to .464 through nine games.
The left-handed Garry only has one home run this season, but it was an impressive one. He jumped on a pitch up in the zone and easily cleared the 370-foot fence in center field at East Central on March 1.
Along with a good batting average and the pop in his bat, Garry has plenty of speed to go with a strong glove and arm in center field.
“He’s a true five-tool player,” Pascagoula coach Richie Tillman said. “He has great speed, great instincts for the game of baseball.”
Garry, who regularly has scouts on hand to watch him play or go through practice, holds scholarship offers from Southeastern Louisiana, Murray State and Little Rock, but he’s also been talking with coaches at Mississippi State and UAB.
“I’m supposed to have a visit up at Mississippi State sometime his month,” he said.
When the MLB Draft begins on June 4, Garry will likely have to make the difficult choice between going pro or going to college.
“That’s a thing I have to talk to my parents about,” he said. “It’s always been my dream to be a pro baseball player, but education is a big thing in my life, too. It all depends on how I’m feeling, talking to my parents about it.
“It all depends on how the season goes and where I get picked in the draft.”
‘This is what I want to do’
At the moment, the season is going just fine for Garry. He credits his progression to work put in with his dad, a speed trainer, and his coaches.
“I’m seeing the ball really good and hitting the ball hard,” he said. “My goal coming into this season was that everything I swing at, I swing out of my shoes. No matter if it’s a ball I don’t think I can hit, I shouldn’t give up on the swing. You’ll hear my dad say it (at games). I think one of my strengths this year is hitting the ball hard no matter where it’s pitched.”
Garry comes from a family that has produced standout athletes before. Southern Miss running back legend Ben Garry is a cousin of his father. Ben “Go Go” Garry, who died in 2006 at the age of 50, was USM’s all-time leading rusher with 3,595 yards when he finished his college career in 1977.
Joe Garry Jr. gave football a try, but it was obvious that baseball was his best sport at an early age. That can be partly credited to his work with a youth league coach, Matt Lawton. A Gulfport product, Lawton was twice a Major League All-Star in a 12-year career that included stops with the Twins, Indians and Cubs.
“He showed me a lot of things that other players at that age don’t have,” Garry said. “That opened my eyes that I could be pretty good at the game if I started working hard. At age 8, I realized that this what I want to do. I want to go to college and play pro baseball. I’ve worked every day. Even when I’m not at the field, I’m thinking about something with my swing or me and my dad are in bed replaying somebody’s swing, just seeing things I can work on.”