JA Head Coach Corey Dickerson

By Robert Wilson

       Former Major League Baseball veteran pitcher Jay Powell coached Jackson Academy to its last MAIS state baseball championship in 2011.

       Now, JA has hired another MLB veteran to try to coach the Raiders to their next state title.

       Former MLB All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson, a Brookhaven Academy and Meridian Community College alumnus, has been hired as JA’s new head baseball coach, replacing Parker Harris.

       Dickerson, 35, played in the major leagues for 11 seasons for eight teams. He last played for the Washington Nationals during the 2023 season. He was an eighth-round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies in 2010. Dickerson made his major league debut in 2013 (he hit two doubles in his first game), was an MLB All-Star in 2017 and won a Gold Glove in 2018.

       Dickerson ranked No. 10 in the American League with a career-high 36 doubles with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2016. Voted as an all-star as a designated hitter, Dickerson had a career-high 27 home runs for the Rays in 2017. In 2018 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Dickerson had the highest fielding percentage among major league leftfielders and won a Gold Glove award.

       He finished with .280 batting average in his MLB career – a high of .312 in 2014 with the Rockies in his second MLB season – and hit 136 home runs during his MLB career.

       Dickerson set school records with a .591 batting average, 15 home runs and 55 runs batted in as a senior at Brookhaven Academy and hit 45 home runs in his four-year high school career.

       He was a volunteer assistant coach for Madison-Ridgeland Academy this past season.

       “When (JA athletic director) Brandt (Walker) called me about the job I was thankful but didn’t think it was my time,” Dickerson said. “Multiple people that’s on my staff now reached out, wanting to help this program to a new level. JA has that same vision that all the coaches shared with me. My wife (Beth Anne) and I started to discuss it more and began to see the vision and opportunity. I always enjoyed helping kids in ways they never thought before by sharing all the mental and physical tools I’ve learned in my career. Also, all the baseball wisdom from our coaches. We hope to be the best developmental program you can find. That’s our goal and everything else will fall into place. Sometimes when God makes you transition in life, you have to lean into it fully, so you don’t miss the blessing.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Corey as our head baseball coach,” Walker said. “During the interview process, his attention to detail, his vision, and his strategic plan to lead JA baseball truly stood out. The exceptional staff he has assembled is remarkable and with the excitement inside the JA community we anticipate a bright future for JA baseball.”

       In addition to Dickerson, five assistants have been hired with a variety of pro baseball players, state high school and state junior college championship players, Division I and College World Series players.

       Josh Rogers, who will be an assistant coach in charge of pitching and catching, won three state championships at Hillcrest Christian School, and played at Southern Miss and Belhaven University. Rogers is well known in the Metro Jackson area as the owner and founder of the Mississippi Yankees, a travel ball organization based out of Madison County and was director of baseball operations of the Madison County Sports Zone in Gluckstadt.

 Rogers holds school records at Hillcrest – which has produced many Division I players, including former MLB standout Seth Smith – with single season strikeouts, career strikeouts and pitching victories.

       “Success is built through strong relationships,” Rogers said. “I hope to make a lasting impact on the JA community and its athletic program.”

       Justin Reed, who will be a hitting coach, won a state championship and was the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year in 2006 as a senior at Hillcrest Christian. He was a fourth round MLB draft pick by the Cincinnati Reds, played five seasons in the minor leagues and has 15 years of coaching experience. Reed, who also an All-State player at Callaway High before transferring to Hillcrest, has been head coach at Hillcrest for three seasons, and assistant at Callaway for six seasons and Madison St. Joseph for seven seasons. Reed also works with Rogers with the Mississippi Yankees.

       Said Reed: “I look forward to creating memories and friendships that last a lifetime.”

       AJ Downs, who will a variety of roles both on and off the field, won a state championship at Clarksdale Lee Academy and was an all-conference outfielder at Mississippi Delta Community College and Delta State and coached at Manchester Academy for 10 years. 

       “It’s an honor to work with this staff, sharing my love for the game to build something great at JA with these coaches,” Downs said. “And to inspire these athletes to reach their greatest potential.” 

Central Hinds Academy alumnus and Mississippi State infielder Tanner Leggett is another assistant coach. Leggett is best remembered for his game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 4-3 victory over Texas to send MSU to the national championship series against Vanderbilt in 2021.

       “I believe that sports have the power to bring people together and create positive change in the world,” Leggett said. “My vision is to inspire and empower athletes of all levels to achieve their goals and reach their full potential.”

       Josh DeMoney, an All-State outfielder at Madison Central, helped Meridian CC to a state championship, and played at Arkansas State, is another assistant who will work with the hitters. He is well known around Metro Jackson for his knowledge of hitting and has worked with Jackson Prep All-American and projected high first-round Major League Baseball draft pick Konnor Griffin.

“It’s an honor to join a staff of proven winners,” DeMoney said. “Jackson Academy is a first-class program. I’m excited to navigate through the challenges ahead and put Raider baseball back where they belong – at the top.”

       Brian Pettway, a former Ole Miss All-American and All-State outfielder from Warren Central High, returns for his third season as the head coach for the junior high program and will help with the high school program. He was a third-round draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays and played three seasons in the minor leagues. Pettway also coaches and trains with the Mississippi Yankees.

       “I am humbled to have the opportunity to work with the JA baseball staff and to be able to share my knowledge of the game along with helping to develop our young talent in this program,” Pettway said.

       JA, with a rich baseball tradition over the years with six state championships (six different coaches), hasn’t had much success since Powell left to go to Jackson Prep after the 2019 season. 

The Raiders’ best season under Harris – who has been named assistant football and baseball coach at Canton Academy – was when Mississippi State All-American outfielder and Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year Dakota Jordan led JA to 21-14 season and the MAIS Class 6A semifinals in 2022. JA finished with a 13-20-1 record and in fifth place in the six team Class 6A conference this past spring.

       The Raiders return six starters, including rising seniors, second baseman-shortstop Joshua Dockins and pitcher-right fielder Foster Meacham. Dockins led JA with a .355 batting average, 33 hits, a .508 on base percentage and 36 runs scored. Meachum had a team-high 11 doubles and three triples. Other returning starters are senior catcher Tripp Mosal, sophomore designated hitter-first baseman Whit Davis, senior pitcher Mason Brantley – son of former MLB pitcher Jeff Brantley – and senior pitcher-left fielder Sherrod Cauthen.

       “This year is going to be great, not only for everyone playing baseball, but as well for the program as a whole,” said Mosal, whose father, David, was on the JA state championship team in 1992 and his uncle, Seth, was on the JA state championship team in 1999. “All these coaches will bring in high level of intent to make everyone around them better. These coaches will make every athlete better on the field. This staff is full of great people, and we are looking forward to learning from them. Everyone at JA is super excited for the years to come.”