When it comes to waiting, 2022 uncommitted middle infielder Cole Watkins doesn’t come across as one who passively sits around hoping an opportunity will miraculously appear. Instead, by aggressively pursuing personal improvement the sophomore out of J.H. Rose High School, in Greenville, NC, isn’t just waiting for those opportunities; he’s getting ready.
Waiting one’s turn is something that can be a reality when playing at such a storied program as that of the Rose Rampants, coached by legendary Ronald Vincent. As regular contenders for both conference and state crowns, their roster can be routinely stacked with players who are college and pro prospects.
Thus, Watkins was very candid about his need to be prepared saying, “My turn is coming. I’ve got to be ready.”
One way Watkins took a step to ready himself to not only make his mark for his school, but put himself in a position to play at the next level, was in joining the Dirtbags in the fall of 2018. After researching the organization, he felt a dual purpose could be served to not only aid in his skill development, but also provide exposure to college coaches. Watkins says it has done both.
The preparation and steps to readiness have allowed Cole to find his game at a level where he can play with a sense of confidence. And it shows, because the kid plays the game hard. He not only is capable of executing in all phases of the game, but also shows leadership by displaying active engagement each pitch with verbal cues and encouragement to his teammates.
All of this hasn’t gone unnoticed in the Dirtbags organization. His most recent experiences had him play with Tyler Drew’s squad in the summer of 2019 and then he was coached by Ben Cassillo in this past fall. Both coaches recognized all the attributes which make him the kind of player coaches want to have on their teams.
Drew saw the attributes of Watkins’ readyiness as he said, “Cole is always cool, calm, and collected. No matter the situation Cole always stayed in control of his emotions and never let the moment get too big for him.”
Acknowledging his view the preparation for performance had been made, Cassillo commented, “Cole has a silent killer mentality to him. He asks for the ball in the biggest situations, and then lets his play do the talking.”
Watkins equally seemed to be appreciative of what he’s gained by being a Dirtbag. He said he recognized very early that the coaches are relationship builders and don’t just teach you skills, but also want what’s best for each player.
Perhaps most impressive about the 15 year old, is his vision of who he is and who he wants to be as a baseball player. He is very precise and direct in describing the work he sees in front of him. He’s a shortstop, but strives to gain skills to make more plays. He hits, but wants to make hard contact more consistently. He can get outs on the mound, but is looking to add more punch to his three-quarter arm slot low 80’s fastball. Even with being “ready” it’s almost like Watkins sees a need to be MORE ready.
His descriptions of his work at the plate centered on working with a hitting instructor for fine tuning to a swing in order to produce “better results.” He talked a lot about balance and keeping the head still, along with “not casting” the hands in order to stay inside the baseball. This isn’t just a guy at the plate trying to hit it hard. He has a plan to hit and has come to understand the more intricate details of the swing.
Beyond his hitting efforts, Watkins also regularly does work with a pitching instructor and routinely engages in workouts to improve body strength. If it sounds like a busy schedule, it is and that’s not all. He also carries his athletic build at 6’2” and 165 pound onto the hardwood as he represents his school as a forward on the JV basketball team.
On top of that, Cole is a regular volunteer in his community, largely through the Health Science Academy at Rose High School. He routinely works with younger kids with homework and playing games at the Boys and Girls Club, plus working at the food bank. Cole says the experiences are very rewarding and the ability to help others is very important to him.
Thus, it’s easy to see why finding a college program for Watkins my largely hinge on connecting with the right fit in terms of building relationships with coaches and teammates. Though he’s in what he considers the early stages of the recruiting process, he sees the opportunity to play on college campuses and getting exposure to college coaches, via his Dirtbags experience, as a vital step for his being ready for that next stage in his career.