By GARY STALLARD
Angelina College head coach Jeff Livin needed a new assistant baseball coach for the upcoming season, and the guy he found embodies the message junior college coaches preach to their players: Perseverance.
Jake Arledge admits he didn’t get a ton of notice from scouts following his time as a high school player in California. He walked on with California Baptist University, an NCAA Division II program, but realized after his first season he’d be placing a financial burden on his parents if he continued.
A conversation with his high school coach regarding the possibility of playing in Texas at the JUCO level led to Arledge packing his car and driving to Carthage and the Panola College campus. He knew no one in the entire state, and had no idea what to expect.
What he found was a home. Arledge posted a stellar season with the Ponies, finishing seventh in the entire NCAA in stolen bases. The brutal competition of Region XIV conference play exposed him to some of the nation’s best talent, and he proved he belonged in the group.
That led to an offer from the University of Arkansas, where Arledge played out his collegiate career. He led the Razorbacks in stolen bases in each of his two seasons, and hit .300 his senior year in the Southeastern Conference. An outfielder who played all three positions, Arledge finished with an outstanding .984 fielding percentage his senior year and batted .385 in the NCAA Tournament’s Fayetteville Regional in 2017.
In 2018, Arledge served as a student assistant coach, helping the Razorbacks to finish as national runners-up following a thrilling NCAA World Series in Omaha.
His return to the JUCO ranks – and East Texas – was no accident. As a member of the Panola team, Arledge played several games at Angelina College, and the program, its head coach and its facilities left a lasting impression.
“I remember coming to this campus for games and being in awe at how nice this facility was,” Arledge said. “I know about Coach Livin’s baseball history, and I know he’s great at developing players. All of it was definitely appealing when I found out they were looking for a coach.”
Arledge said his approach to working with his new players will be fairly simplistic.
“First and foremost, I want to share with our guys the mentality we took at Arkansas, and that was just be grinders,” Arledge said. “No matter the situation or score, whether we’re up 10 or down 10, to just keep grinding and making things happen.
“I also want to utilize their tools. I don’t want to have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ plan. I know every player is a different player, and I know some guys can run bases, and some guys can hit homers. I don’t want anyone trying to do anything other than what they can do well. I want to see what every player does, and I want to utilize their strengths.”
Arledge added that when it came time to hang up his cleats, there was no looking back. He’d had a great collegiate career and was ready for the next step toward another base.
“I had an offer to become a free-agent in some professional leagues, but I knew I wouldn’t play forever, and I’ve always wanted to coach,” Arledge said. “I’m excited to see what this program can do.”
Arledge’s parents are Donna and Andrew Arledge.
Sports Information Director Gary Stallard, who also serves as a Liberal Arts Instructor, begins his eleventh season with Angelina College. Following a career as a U.S. Marine, Stallard completed his bachelor’s degree at Stephen F. Austin University, where he majored in English and Journalism. For more than 16 years, he has worked as a sports writer/columnist/photographer for the Lufkin Daily News; he continues to contribute free-lance articles on occasion. Stallard has won several awards for writing, including the Golden Hoops Award for basketball writing in 2003, Regional Sports Writer of the Year in 2004, and the Texas Press Association’s first-place award for column writing in 2007 and in 2014. He has also done basketball, football and baseball radio and live streaming play-by- play and color commentary for an ESPN affiliate. Currently Stallard serves as play-by-play broadcaster for AC basketball, baseball and softball games.
Prior to arriving at Angelina College, Stallard taught English at Lufkin High School for four years. He currently teaches Developmental Writing classes at AC. He and his wife Susan live in Lufkin.
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