Photo by Chris Todd

By Billy Watkins

       College recruiters take note: Jackson Prep’s Konnor Griffin, the nation’s No. 1-rated prospect in the Class of 2025 by Perfect Game Media, has decided to graduate a year early.

       Griffin, who turned 16 in late April, is rated a 5-tool outfielder/shortstop/third baseman/pitcher. As a freshman, he recently helped Prep win its fifth consecutive MAIS state championship.

       Konnor’s dad, Kevin, explained why the family made the decision: “The recruiting process has been ongoing for two years now and it was important to put Konnor in a situation where he can take official visits and get on campus with these coaches.

       “It may sound like putting the cart before the horse, but most kids his age don’t have to deal with the stress of recruiting. He will be able to go to college a year younger and develop in someone’s program for three years if that’s the route he ends up going.

       “From a parent standpoint, recruiting was fun at first and it still is in many cases, but we have to really monitor who contacts Konnor because there are some vindictive people out there who have ulterior motives. I think we’ve handled this whole process about as well as we possibly could under the circumstances.”

       The family relied on “a small circle of people that we absolutely trust” to help make the decision, Kevin said.

Photo by Chris Todd

       He added: “We lean on those people and we also pray that God will help us make the right decisions in the reclassification process as well as in recruiting,”

       When asked if it would be difficult giving up one year of high school, Konnor said: “I became good friends with several of my teammates who were older than me this year, and I look forward to playing with them next year.  For my friends who will now be a grade behind me, I’ll be able to play with them on varsity the next two years.  So I try to focus on the time that we will have together and not the year that I am losing.”

       He is also preparing for the workload involved with graduating a year early at Prep, one of the leading academic schools in the Southeast.

       “When I came to Prep (in eighth grade), I was able to transfer some credits, which helped me get ahead,” Konnor said. “The last two years I had a full schedule of classes and will take a summer school class (this year).  The next two years will be tough, but Prep has built in study halls to help me with the load of work.”

       There is a lot to like about Konnor’s game. He stands 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, throws in the 90s, hits for average and power, and covers a lot of ground in the outfield. The average Major League player runs a 60-yard dash in 6.8 seconds. Konnor already has been timed at 6.75.

       This season Konnor batted .472 with 6 homers, 42 runs scored, an on-base percentage of .607, and a slugging percentage of .876.

       On the mound, he went 6-2 with a 1.64 ERA in 11 appearances. Of the 177 batters faced, he struck out 59.

       Not bad for a ninth-grader.

       Of course, Konnor and his family most likely will have another decision to make in 2024: Go to college or turn pro.

       They aren’t concerned with the latter just yet.

       “Right now our focus is helping him choose the right college to attend where the coaches can develop him for the possibility of the draft,” Kevin said. “We really aren’t focusing on the professional side of things at this point. This reclassification is all about being able to narrow down the recruiting process.  Kim and I have always encouraged Konnor to wait on making a college commitment. There is no rush because we don’t even know who the coaches will be in two years at any of these schools.”

Photo by Chris Todd

       Despite the pressure and expectations that come with national attention, Konnor focuses on his love of baseball.

       “I like to compete,” said Konnor, who is from Florence. “The day to day grind of preparing for competition — and being around teammates who feel the same way — helps make it fun to put the work in.  When I was hurt this year (an injury in track caused him to miss four games), my teammates rallied around me and didn’t make me feel guilty for getting hurt playing another sport. They encouraged me. Being able to have that kind of bond makes playing baseball fun.”