Former Heber Springs star Tanner Rockwell continues to post stellar numbers at Arkansas Baptist Junior College, where he is currently batting .466, which ranks ninth among NJCAA players nationwide.
Through 21 games this season, 'T-Rock' has collected 34 hits, 6 doubles, 4 home runs, 27 RBI, 6 stolen bases and 9 walks while only striking out five times in 73 at-bats. He owns an on-base percentage of .524 and slugging percentage of .712 while playing third base and serving as closer on the mound in many situations.
The Arkansas Baptist sophomore signed with UALR prior to the season, and could have more options on the table once the Major League Draft rolls around in June.
Rockwell, who hit .398 with 7 home runs and 15 doubles as a freshman, said the coaching situation made him feel most comfortable with signing at UALR. “When it comes down to recruiting you hear a lot of the same stuff,” said Rockwell. “What really drew me in was Coach [Scott] Norwood was really a straight-forward guy. That's the kind of coaches I really like to play for.”
Rockwell said Norwood reminds him of Heber Springs' basketball Coach Kevin Kyzer.
“To me he reminds me a lot of Coach Kyzer and that was the first thing that really stood out to me right away. He (Norwood) knew I was waiting on offers from bigger schools but he told me straight up that I was the guy they really wanted.
“He said he wasn't going to pay the full amount of money for me to go there just to have a guy that might play. He said he wanted me to play right away and hit in the middle of the order and come in and close out games for him like I am doing here (Arkansas Baptist). Being so close to home it was hard to turn down.”
Although content with playing at UALR, Rockwell said a shot at playing Major League Baseball would be difficult to turn down.
“It's a tough situation. It's hard to turn down because it's something that you dream about your whole life. It's something you have been striving for and have worked hard for. If you go another year [in college] against higher competition it might work out for you but if it was a good situation it would be hard to turn down.”
Rockwell said third base has become a tough position with many teams looking to bunt due to the relatively new metal bats, which have been toned down considerably and now resemble wooden bats.
“With the new bats, teams are bunting a lot more so you can't just put a big guy at third that just sits back and hits home runs like they used to. You've got to have a guy that can field the bunt game so that might be the most difficult position now to field with the bunt game like it is now.”
Page 2 of 2 - T-Rock grew up in Drasco and honed his skills in Greers Ferry until transferring to Heber Springs prior to his sophomore season. He said he attributes much of his success to his parents, Tim and Terri Rockwell, and Coach Kyzer.
Coming out of high school, Rockwell turned down several other offers, including Crowder College and Seminole College, both of which are ranked in the Top 3 in NJCAA baseball. “Throughout high school my parents were the main factor in the decision I made. It was a big deal for my mom because every time that I would talk to a school the first thing she would ask about was how close they are because my parents really enjoy coming to watch. I like them being able to come and watch.
“I also give a lot of credit to Coach Kyzer. He was by far the coach I could relate to more than anybody I have ever played for. He also taught me a lot about life in general. It wasn't just about sports with him. He is a really good guy and he actually taught us a bunch about caring for the people around you.”
Already a Greers Ferry Lake Area baseball legend, T-Rock is on the fast trek to becoming much more.