Robert Wilson spent 23 years at The Clarion-Ledger/Jackson Daily News as a sportswriter with more than half of those years covering high school sports, mostly in the Metro Jackson area. He helped choose the All-Metro teams in various sports for more than a decade. Wilson rebirthed this team with the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All-Metro Jackson Baseball Team with 28 players and a Coach and Player of the Year. This is the fifth annual teams. With the help of high school and college coaches, Wilson selected the best players and coach for the 2024 season from Hinds, Madison, and Rankin Counties. 

By Robert Wilson

       Jackson Prep’s Konnor Griffin and St. Andrew’s Mark Fanning – the 2024 PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Baseball Player and Coach of the Year – led their respective teams to state championships this season.

Griffin, a senior pitcher-shortstop and LSU signee, was named the Metro Player of the Year for the second straight season and led Prep to a school record 39 victories (only four defeats), a No. 3 national ranking and a seventh consecutive MAIS Class 6A state championship this season. 

The 50-year-old Fanning – a Newton County High, East Central Community College, and Mississippi College graduate – guided St. Andrew’s to a 32-7 record (one short of the school record for wins) and an MHSAA Class 2A state championship, the second of his 27-year head coaching career. He also led the Saints to a state title in 2018.

       Griffin was named the National Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year last week, the first Mississippian to receive that award and only the second Mississippian to earn a National Gatorade Player of the Year in any sport since the award began in 1985. Ridgeland High and former Olympic gold medalist Bianca Knight won national player of the year for girls track and field in 2006.

Griffin – a right-handed, leadoff hitter who is rated the top high school player in the country – had one of the best seasons in Mississippi high school history, hitting .559 (third highest in Mississippi, according to MaxPreps) with a school record 66 hits, a school record 76 runs (most in the country, second most in Mississippi history), a school record 83 stolen bases (third most in the country and fifth most in Mississippi history), 39 runs batted in, 13 doubles, 4 triples and 9 home runs (tied for second in Mississippi). His batting average ranks third in school history behind Gene Wood (.606 in 2014) and Luke Maddox (.579 in 2009).

An accurate eye at the plate, Griffin had only 10 strikeouts in 117 plate appearances and walked a school record 47 times and had an .690 on base percentage (third highest in Mississippi). He was caught stealing only one time, when he tried to steal home against Presbyterian Christian School during the regular season. Blessed with the ability to hit with power to all fields, Griffin had a .966 slugging percentage (second highest in Mississippi).

Griffin, whose fastball has been clocked as high as 98 miles per hour, also had a 10-0 record (tied for third in Mississippi in wins) and a 0.72 earned run average (sixth lowest in Mississippi) and 107 strikeouts (sixth best in Mississippi) and only 26 walks in 67 2/3 innings.

A slick-fielding shortstop with great range and lightning quick instincts, Griffin made only five errors and had a .956 fielding percentage and turned 12 double plays. By comparison, only 10 major league shortstops have a better fielding percentage as of this week.

Griffin led Prep to a 15-0 conference record for the second straight season. He set school career records with 120 stolen bases and a 1.13 ERA. 

Griffin is projected anywhere from No. 5 to No. 10 in the Major League Baseball draft, scheduled for July 14. Only two Mississippi high school players have ever been taken in the top 10 overall picks. Ted Nicholson from Oak Park High in Laurel was the No. 3 pick in 1969 and Kirk Presley of Tupelo High was the No. 8 pick in 1993.

“I cannot say enough about what Konnor has meant to this program and me,” said Prep coach Brent Heavener, who has coached Griffin since he started going to Prep in the eighth grade. “He’s going to go down as one of the best players that has worn a Prep uniform and he’s done it the right way since Day One. We are so proud of him and can’t wait to watch what the future holds.”

 “It’s hard to put into words how much that young man has meant to Jackson Prep,” Prep athletic director Will Crosby said. “A generational talent who is full of humility and is constantly thinking of others. Anyone can watch him play and understand how gifted he is physically. What truly makes him special is his leadership skills and the ability to make those around him feel special. Jackson Prep is a better school because of Konnor’s years here. Are we going to miss him? As he was walking off the field after that last game, I told his mom, ‘I miss him already.’ “

       “Konnor is a great baseball player, no doubt about that,” said Prep junior infielder-pitcher Tre Bryant, who joined Griffin on the All Metro Jackson first team this season. “He is a pure five tool player and can do it all. What impresses me the most about him though is not his skill, it’s his ability to stay humble throughout the ups and downs as well as bringing his teammates up with him. His work ethic is something else, even whenever I played with him when we were just 13 years old, I knew that he was different. The way Konnor carries himself on and off the field is just different and you can tell as a teammate. It makes you want to work harder and push yourself when you have a person like him in your dugout.”

Photo by Brad Bridges

“Konnor is the definition of a five tool player,” said Madison-Ridgeland senior second baseman and Northwest Mississippi Community College signee Jack Dye, a member of the Metro Jackson first team. “He can truly do it all. It’s been an honor to play against him for the past four years and play with him in the all-star game. Futures game, and with Team Mississippi last summer. You won’t find a player more competitive than Konnor. Every time he steps on the field, he is going to give it his all and do whatever it takes to win and that’s why he is so successful. Konnor makes the players around him better. What makes him even more special is how great of a person he is. He does everything the right way and competes at the highest level while doing it. Mr. Kevin and Mrs. Kim (Griffin’s parents) raised a great person and player. He will be a Top 10 draft pick here shortly and there is nobody who deserves it more than him.”

Griffin had a 7-1 record and a 1.38 earned run average with 81 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 50 2/3 innings and hit .537 with 43 runs, 30 runs batted in, 6 doubles, 2 triples and 8 home runs last year as a junior. He had only nine strikeouts in 82 at-bats and walked 22 times and had .636 on-base percentage and a .951 slugging percentage.

Griffin grew up in Clinton, moved to Florence seven years ago and started going to Prep in the eighth grade. He played football, basketball and ran track and field on Prep’s middle school teams as an eighth grader and freshman. The only varsity sport he played as a freshman was baseball.

Griffin burst onto the varsity scene in dominating fashion two seasons ago. In his first game, Griffin’s first three pitches were clocked at 92, 93 and 91 miles per hour and he struck out the side on 11 pitches in the first inning against East Rankin Academy in the season opener. His second pitch of the second inning was clocked at 96. Griffin threw 35 pitches – 26 strikes – in three innings and didn’t allow a baserunner and had six strikeouts out of nine batters he faced. Then East Rankin coach Steve Renfrow compared Griffin to JT Ginn of Brandon, who was the national freshman of the year at Mississippi State and was a second-round pick by the New York Mets in the 2020 Major League Draft.

         Griffin finished with a .476 batting average, a .617 on base percentage, a .870 slugging percentage, 10 doubles, 4 triples, 5 home runs, 28 runs batted in, 43 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, struck out only 9 times in 84 at bats and made only 2 errors. He had an 8-2 record, 1.64 earned run average with 59 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 42 2/3 innings. He helped Prep to a 31-7 record, a No. 21 final national ranking by Perfect Game and its fifth straight MAIS state championship. Griffin was the first team shortstop on the Metro Jackson team, the only freshman or sophomore on the 26-player list.

Griffin made the decision to skip his sophomore year and become a junior and join the Class of 2024 two summers ago. He also decided not to play football or run track and field but did play basketball. Griffin led the team with 12.3 points, 7.4 rebounds per game, 26 blocked shots, and 51.9 percent field goal percentage and led Prep to its second consecutive MAIS Overall Tournament championship this season. He had 15 points and 15 rebounds in the Overall title game over Clinton Christian Academy.

Griffin was named to the third team on the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson boys basketball team as a junior. He is the only player to make the Metro Jackson basketball and baseball teams, quite an accomplishment. 

Griffin’s only loss last year was in a 4-2 decision against Neumann, Fla., March 14 in the Battle at the Beach on the Mississippi Gulf Coast when he allowed one unearned run and had 11 strikeouts in five innings.

Griffin was outstanding, especially on the mound, in Prep’s wins without a defeat in conference play. He pitched Game 1 of all five, three-game series and allowed only three earned runs in 25 innings (a 0.84 ERA) with 41 strikeouts and only five walks. Griffin hit .476 (20 of 42) for the 15 games.

Griffin threw a complete game and allowed two earned runs with 11 strikeouts and only two walks in a 6-2 win over Madison-Ridgeland Academy in Game 1 of the championship series.

Griffin didn’t play basketball this year because he was busy with major league baseball teams coming in for home visits and getting ready for his senior baseball season.

Griffin’s parents are Kim and Kevin Griffin. Kim attended William Carey University in Hattiesburg for her bachelor’s degree, Mississippi College for her specialist degree and is currently working to finish her Doctorate. She played basketball and volleyball in high school. Kevin played baseball and basketball at Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, Tenn., and received his bachelor’s degree from Bellevue University. Kim is the Technology Director at First Presbyterian School in Jackson. Kevin has been the softball coach at Belhaven University in Jackson for the past 14 seasons and led the Lady Blazers to a NCAA Division III national championship runner-up finish this season. Griffin has two brothers. Kannon played first base and pitched for Florence High and is co-foreman at Mid-South Crawl Space. Kaden just finished the eighth grade at Florence Middle School and plays baseball, basketball, and football.

Fanning was a star shortstop and pitcher at Hickory High before the school consolidated, along with Decatur High, into the Newton County High in 1990. He played basketball and baseball his junior year at Newton County High and played football (receiver and kicker), basketball and baseball as a senior. Fanning played baseball for his father, Mack Fanning, at Hickory and Newton County. The Fannings led Newton County to a 23-7 record Mark’s senior year, and he played in the all-star game in 1992. He played shortstop, second base and third base for two seasons at East Central CC and two seasons at Mississippi College. Fanning did his student teaching at Clinton High in the spring of 1997 and coached baseball with then Clinton High coach Doug Hutton.

“I worked with (former St. Andrew’s baseball coach) Mike Barkett at Barkett Sports (a sporting goods company) in 1996 and one day he asked me if I would be interested in the St. Andrew’s baseball coaching job,” Fanning said. “I got the job on his recommendation and my first season was the spring of 1998. That was my first job and 27 years later, I’m at the same place. I’ve been very fortunate anad had pretty good baseball players every year. Our booster club has been great. We didn’t have lights and that’s the first thing I did when I got the job. The booster club has helped so much over the years and the administration has been very helpful and behind me all the way. They have helped tremendously to make our baseball facility one of the best in the state. We have an indoor facility down the right field line. I spend a lot of time working on the field. We bought a house about a five-minute walk away so I’m close by if I want to come work on the field. I teach middle school fitness in the morning and come to baseball in the afternoons. I take pride in the way the field looks, and I cut all the grass. I enjoy it. Fifty percent of coaching baseball is taking care of the facility.”

Fanning credits his father with a lot of his coaching philosophy. Mack Fanning is in the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame. He started coaching in 1968 and retired in 2014 and coached at Hickory and Newton County. Mack Fanning coached slow pitch and fast pitch softball and baseball. He won state titles in slow pitch in 1999 and 2012, fast pitch in 2001, 2003 and 2004 and baseball in 1981 and 1983. The Newton County High athletic complex is named after him.

Mark’s mom and Mack’s wife Marie was a first grade teacher at Hickory and Newton County for many years.

“I’ve been learning about baseball from my dad since I was five or six years old,” Mark Fanning said. “He always found different ways to get things done. Practices wasn’t the same. There are different ways to become better. In the classroom, you don’t teach every student the same and that’s the way it is in baseball. Every player learns differently. You can’t throw together a plan and keep it. You have to adjust that plan in order to make everyone better. I still use the same signs my dad used. 

“I played for Jamie Clark at East Central. The biggest thing I learned from Jamie was when you coach junior college you are getting superstars from all of these high schools, and he did a great job of making everyone feel a part of the team even though some weren’t as talented as the others. He did a great job with roster management and found ways to get everyone in whether it be pinch hitting opportunities or another way to contribute to the team.

Photo by Robert Smith

“I played for Tom Gladney at MC. Tom was a great organizer. He was a very detailed person. We knew exactly what we were doing every day. When we went on a trip we had an itinerary and we knew all the time where to be and when we should be there.”

Fanning has won 580 games in his 27 seasons at St. Andrew’s. He and Purvis coach Tony Purvis have been at the same school longer than any active coaches in Mississippi. He has had only two losing seasons, his second year in 1999 and in 2004. Both years he finished 15-17. The 2003 season was the only year Fanning hasn’t taken his team to the playoffs. Then only two teams made the playoffs and the Saints finished in third place in the district. 

Fanning returned the nucleus of his team to start this season after finishing 23-11 and reaching the 2A state quarterfinals last season.

“We played without (starting senior outfielders) Rolen (Fanning, Fanning’s son), Walker (Van Meter) and Callan (Baldwin), who were playing in the state soccer championships (St. Andrew’s won for the second straight year) and we started 1-3,” Fanning said. “At our banquet last year, we said not getting to the state championship game this season would be a disappointment. We set our team goals of win the division, win 20 games, advance in the playoffs, and win a state title. It is hard to win a state championship. You need some breaks and have some luck. But we had experienced players. Rolen had played the outfield for five years, four straight in centerfield. Callan had played three years in right field, Van Meter three plus years at third base and left field and (senior) Friend (Walker) three straight years. This was (sophomore) Justin Word’s third straight year to start at shortstop. It was (senior) Blake Bell’s third year at catcher. We had a ton of experience, combined with good defense, a pitching staff that threw strikes and a pretty good offense. Our pitchers weren’t dominant, but they competed. We had seven pitchers throw in the playoffs and four in the state championship series. Our offensive lineup would wear a pitching staff out and get to you late in the game. Our championship game (the deciding Game 3 against two-time defending state champion East Union) was a perfect example of our season. We fell behind but fought back and found a way to win. Rolen had a two-out hit to keep the fifth inning alive and (Class 2A Player of the Year and Mississippi State commitment) Landon Harmon threw 24 pitches that inning. We had five or six straight batters reach base. If Rolen doesn’t get that hit, we don’t win the state championship. Two years ago, we couldn’t have done that. These guys won so many ballgames by digging in and fighting and finding a way to win.”

“Coach Fanning is the most dedicated high school baseball coach that I know and while he may not always have the best team on the field, he will never have the less prepared team on the field because of the way he works to prepare us day in and day out, regardless of the conditions,” St. Andrew’s senior third baseman Friend Walker said. “Coach Fanning has been an incredible blessing to my high school career and has taught me the importance of hard work and perseverance and has taught me the importance of only worrying about what I can control. I am so thankful for Coach’s leadership and the way he has pushed me through the years to be a better player and to learn how to deal with adversity in the face of overwhelming odds – being down three in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the state championship game up against Landon Harmon. Coach Fanning means so more to the St. Andrew’s community than people even realize, and it is hard to put into words the impact he has on us as players and men. From making sure to teach us the importance of Easter to the meaning of our lives as men as a whole in sharing the good news of the Gospel with us, to being an incredible advocate to all of our players to pushing us to be the best that we could possibly be, I am so thankful that the Lord has blessed me to have Coach Fanning as my coach.”

Fanning is married to Patti Fanning, and they will celebrate their 26thwedding anniversary on June 20. She works in the investment department at Bank Plus. Rolen is their only child.

Said Fanning: “Rolen has playing a number of sports all his life and Patti has missed only one of his games since he started playing when he was three years old.”

Coaching his son has never been an issue.
       “Rolen made it easy,” Fanning said. “He is never one to look for attention. Rolen always played hard and when he came along, we didn’t have many upperclassmen, so he played a lot early. No one ever said he didn’t deserve to play. Rolen took care of what he was supposed to do. He’s a quiet leader and leads by example.”

“Having my dad as my coach means so much to me because he has been there every moment of my life helping me to get better as I got older,” said Rolen Fanning, who is on the Metro Jackson second team as an outfielder. “I am so proud of what he has accomplished as a coach, and I couldn’t think of anybody more deserving of this honor because of all the hard work he puts in to get his guys in their best spots. It was super helpful having my dad as my coach because whenever I wanted to practice outside of our team practices, he was able to give me a practice-like atmosphere that made me push myself harder than normal.”

Fanning’s assistants this season were Jordan Nichols, Josh Newell, Doug Jones, and Quinton Robertson, all part time coaches. Fanning has had several long-time assistants over the years like Gerard McCall, Josh Parks, Chris Burgess, and Dolph Woodall.

“I worked with Mark for about 10 years at St. Andrew’s and he gave me my first chance to coach on the varsity level,” said McCall, who won a MHSAA Class 2A state championship at Madison St. Joseph in 2018. “Mark works on his program as hard as any coach I have seen. His passion for the game is unmatched. Mark has done more with less talent than I’ve seen any other coach do. He is just as passionate today after 27 years as he was his first year. When you play his teams, you have to beat them, they don’t beat themselves. I owe a lot of credit to Mark for teaching me how to run a successful program. He deserves his flowers now.”



2023: Konnor Griffin, Jackson Prep 
2022: Nick Monistere, Northwest Rankin
2021: Braden Montgomery, Madison Central
2020: Kellum Clark, Brandon


2023: Sam Starnes, Pisgah
2022: Steve Renfrow, East Rankin Academy
2021: KK Aldridge, Northwest Rankin
2020: Brian Jones, Pearl