Until this past fall, Jason Rooks played defensive end in high school football and kept that football mentality when he played baseball at Walton (Marietta, Ga.).
“I’m always intense,” Rooks said. “I’m always hyped up in games. In football, I was crazy, always trying to get the quarterback. It comes at me in baseball. It gets me so fired up and makes me enjoy the game so much more.”
“Sometimes it’s a positive and sometimes it’s a negative,” Walton coach Shane Amos said of Rooks’ gung-ho style. “Sometimes in baseball, you can get too geeked up. He’s found out he’s better when he relaxes.”
Jason Rooks (Photo: Mike Rooks)
Rooks, a senior outfielder, made the American Family Insurance ALL-USA preseason team and he didn’t disappoint this season, hitting .411 with 43 RBI and 12 homers in 112 at-bats, helping the Raiders finish 27-8.
Walton has a strong baseball tradition, winning state titles in 1992, 2007 and in 2016. The Raiders have had 17 players selected in Major League Baseball’s June Amateur Draft, including Carter Kieboom, who was a Washington Nationals’ first-round pick last season.
“I played with Carter for three years,” Rooks said. “He was a sophomore and I was on the varsity team as a freshman. He was the person I looked up to probably the most because of how he went about the game and because we were very similar, power-wise and the competition between us made us better.”
Rooks surpassed Kieboom’s career numbers and pretty much those of every Walton player who came before him. He holds the school career records for hits (115), doubles (46), home runs (34) and RBI (158).
“He’s been very consistent, ever since he came in as a freshman,” Amos said. “Basically, he’s averaged nine to 10 homers a year and right around eight to 12 doubles a year. The best thing he’s done this year is cut down his strikeouts to base-on-ball ratio. This year, he’s more patient. He took his walks when it looked like they weren’t pitching to him, rather than try to make something happen.”
Rooks is 6-3 and 210 and the mixture of power and high average could make him a desirable pro prospect, though Amos said he has no idea where he might go in the draft.
“Offensively, he’s a very consistent hitter,” Amos said. “He has tremendous bat speed. When he hits the ball, it sounds different, even when he hits with a wood bat. He can hit. I just don’t know what everybody is looking for in the draft.”
Rooks did impress a few scouts in a January MLB Prospect Development Pipleline event at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, hitting six homers in 20 batting practice swings.
“I’m always tweaking my swing, but defensively, I wouldn’t consider myself a bad outfielder but I need to work on routes and the path I need to take,” Rooks said.
He also has a desirable fall-back position, as he has verbally committed to Georgia Tech.
“I was born a Georgia Tech fan and my dad went to Georgia Tech,” Rooks said. “Going to Georgia Tech has been my dream and it makes me excited to think that I’ll be playing there next year.”