Jeb Vanatta gets to make a lifelong dream come true.
The Charleston High School senior put pen to paper by officially committing to McKendree University to continue his baseball career. With McKendree located less than two hours away in Lebanon, it was close enough to home, while it gave Vanatta a chance to play right away.
“A big thing that drew me to McKendree’s baseball program is that their underclassmen get to play in a separate season than the regular team so I would get good experience and playing time even as a freshman,” said Vanatta, who is expected to play in the outfield. “I will make their program better by taking advantage of my opportunities, working hard, and being the best teammate I can be.”
Vanatta said that he spent the last couple of years trying to reach his goal of becoming a college baseball player. He participated in multiple showcases and travel ball during the summer. In the fall, he was able to have a successful offseason and got a lot of film to college coaches.
“I couldn’t be more proud and happy for Jeb,” said Charleston High coach Daniel Bennett. “Just like the rest of the senior group, I wish I could have had him longer. Jeb is always one of the first ones to practice and one of the last ones to leave. He has a passion for the game and a willingness to work hard and that is going to make him successful at the next level. McKendree is adding a quality person to their program.”
Vanatta said that the old and new regime of Charleston coaches has been a huge support for him during this process.
“Coach Miller took me in when I was a freshman and always believed in me,” said Vanatta. “He’s still my go-to guy for problems I need help with. Coach Baker has always believed in me and helped give me a lot of instruction over the offseason and helped us make recruiting films. I’d also like to thank Coach Bennett who’s come in and done a great job and Coach Simpson. I couldn’t ask for a better coaching staff and I wouldn’t have gotten this far without these guys.”
Vanatta also said he got a lot of help from his coaches from the Illinois Braves travel team.
“Coach Johnson has been a great coach and mentor to me since I’ve known him,” said Vanatta. “Coach Tabeling also helped me get noticed these last couple of years. I also want to shout out Coach Schmitz who worked with me countless sessions over the last 5 years to help prepare me for college ball.”
There was also help at home with what sounds like a close-knit family atmosphere.
“My dad, mom, and sister Jessi have been super supportive of me through my ups and downs throughout the years and I can’t thank them enough,” said Vanatta. “Also a big shoutout to my dad for throwing batting practice to me ever since I can remember. And thank you to all of my teammates for supporting me.”
Now, Vanatta can focus on his senior season and then join a McKendree team that is looking to rebuild. Last year, the team finished 14-26 and 7-25 in conference play. This year, the team has gotten off to a 6-16 start, which includes a 1-3 mark in conference play.
“I want to thank the McKendree coaches for the offer and for helping me reach my goal of playing college baseball,” said Vanatta. “Being a college athlete is a huge achievement to me because you get to play the sport you love an extra four years and not everyone gets an opportunity like this and I’m super thankful for it.”