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Coleman quietly leads Rebels to first place
J.D. Coleman
Rebels catcher J.D. Coleman pops out of his crouch after catching a strikeout pitch from Griffin Howe during a March 30 game against Statesboro. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — The quiet leadership of Effingham County’s John Daniel “J.D.” Coleman comes over loud and clear.

The senior catcher is often the first to baseball practice and one of the last to leave. He works hard in the weight room. He’s engaged in the classroom.

And he wants to win for his teammates.

“My teammates mean the world to me,” Coleman said. “They’re like my brothers and just to have one more year together is special. We want to do the best we can — not do too much, not do too little. Play the best we can and everything will take care of itself.”

An 8-1 start in Region 2-AAAAAA play, which included a three-game sweep of highly regarded Richmond Hill, has Coleman and the Rebels embarking on a special season.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound switch-hitter bats in the middle of the lineup and is hitting .375, .480 (12 for 25) against region teams.

But his intangibles stand out even farther.

“When the younger kids come in our program, they already know who he is,” ECHS coach Shane Ramsey said. “Just about all of them come up to me (and say) I want to be like J.D. They see how hard he works. He’s very meticulous when he’s working on his craft.

“So you point kids to him (and say) — this is how you work, this is how you prepare. I’ve been coaching for 16 years and I couldn’t ask for a better leader.”

J.D. Coleman grew up in an athletic family. Johnny Coleman, his father, starred in baseball and football with the Rebels. Older sister Jaci played softball and now plays for South Carolina Beaufort.

“The three of us were always together doing something with a ball,” J.D. said. “It was always fun. When she left (for college), it was like, “What do we do now?” ”

But J.D. never strayed too far off base in baseball.

“My dad never pushed anything on me,” Coleman said. “I played football a little bit when I was younger, but I really loved baseball. I’d get home from school and work out with my dad until the sun went down. The best part about growing up and playing ball was enjoying it with him.”

Now dad can sit back and watch the show. J.D. has already signed a scholarship to play at Queens University in Charlotte, N.C.

But before Coleman leaves Springfield, he’s looking to help the team toward another destination and suddenly nothing seems out of reach after turning around a 2-9 start against non-region teams — albeit eight games against schools ranked in the top-10 of their classification, according to Score Atlanta.

ECHS will have mega three-game series against Glynn Academy and South Effingham in the upcoming weeks.

Few would have expected the Rebels to be in this position.

“You’re always going to have your doubters,” Coleman said. “I think the big thing is everybody in the locker room knows we have what it takes to do what we need to do. The energy is there, the chemistry is there. Now all we have to do is perform. We’re ready for it.”