From Soddy Daisy to the Big Leagues
Updated: Feb 2, 2021
A slugger at heart, John Rhodes is the textbook definition of a superstar. John paved his path from a small public school in rural Tennessee to a private school named Chattanooga Christian, all the way up to the University of Kentucky where he's a sophomore student-athlete. Following his time with the Wildcats, John will certainly be a prime candidate for the MLB draft. Although he’s just a sophomore, John has clearly made his mark in the SEC by earning numerous honors, including National Co-Freshman of the Year. In fact, John was just recently ranked as the #32 MLB Draft Prospect by the MLB Pipeline, and the #30 overall by D1Baseball. With that being said, John's talents aren't limited to the baseball field. In the brief time that we talked, his personality and demeanor blew me away. He has the type of relaxed yet charismatic attitude that makes you want to calm down, talk more, and open up about yourself! As you read, I hope you'll sit still and gain some invaluable knowledge from the great athlete and man that is John Rhodes!!
John's Most Recent Achievements
Third-Team Preseason All-America (D1 Baseball, Collegiate Baseball News, 2021)
No. 30 College Prospect, 2021 (D1Baseball)
No. 32 MLB Draft Prospect, 2021 (MLB.com/MLB Pipeline)
National Co-Freshman of the Year, 2020 (Collegiate Baseball News)
Third-Team All-America, Collegiate Baseball News (2020)
SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll (2020)
Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League All-Star (2019)
Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game MVP (2019)
No. 11 prospect in PGCBL (Perfect Game, 2019)
What's it like going from a small public school in Tennessee to a private school, all the way to playing for the University of Kentucky and becoming a top MLB Draft prospect? National Co-Freshman of the Year John Rhodes shares his answer:
So, I'm originally from Soddy Daisy, Tennessee which is 30 minutes away from Chattanooga. Compared to Chattanooga, Soddy Daisy is way more rural and country. For high school, I started attending Chattanooga Christian, so I basically drove to the city every day. There was a little bit of a culture shock because I went to public school all the way until high school, and I kind of got there and there were just so many Lookout Mountain people and stuff like that. [Lookout Mountain is an upper-class region in the Chattanooga area] I kind of thought, this is a little bit different but good at the same time. Fast forward to now and I love Chattanooga; Chattanooga's my home for sure. I miss Champy's [laughs]. Champy's is a popular southern restaurant primarily known for its world famous chicken.
Adjusting to a New Environment
I know that adjusting to private school and everything like that was difficult for me. But all in all, I think it prepared me really well for college. Would you say it did the same for you?
Yeah, it 100% got me out of my comfort zone because at the time I really felt like I was kind of a hotshot you know? I was at Loftus middle school, and I was just comfortable with where I was. And then I got to private school and all of the sudden I had to start from square one. It was basically like I was a nobody, you know? And so, I had to try and build myself up. Being in that new environment taught me some valuable interpersonal skills and basically how to interact with other people that I didn't really know. The transition itself definitely helped my social skills a lot. It gave me an opportunity to really step outside of my bubble. During my time at Chattanooga Christian, it brought me to the realization that life is bigger than the Soddy Daisy bubble so I’m really grateful for that experience.
Transitioning to College
How would you describe your transition into college then? Was it what you expected?
Honestly, the transition into college has been a lot more fluid than I thought it would. Before the start of freshman year, I actually went to play in a summer league in New York for about two months and so I think that really was a huge part of my transition period and adjusting to living on my own and being accustomed to college life and stuff like that. While I was in New York, I basically lived a minute away from some college campuses and I think that really prepared me for what college was going to be about.
Eventually, when I got to college, I was like: "Alright, I'm ready for this." Also, in retrospect, I think I was just ready to move out, I was ready to get going since my senior year of high school. When summer after senior year came around I was telling myself: "Alright It's time. It's definitely time to go." For that entire school year, I was super excited waiting for that summer to get going and by the time I got to campus I thought to myself: "This is awesome." I do think it's kind of what I expected in terms of workload, especially since I set the bar pretty high in my imagination [laughs]. My time at Kentucky has been pretty much exactly what I wanted!
Reflecting on the 2020 Season
How would you describe your freshman experience as a whole?
This past season was definitely humbling. When I think about my experience as a whole, you know, we only got one month into the season. Before that, right after high school, I had two months of summer playing in a college league. So there were just all these college guys and like three high schoolers in the entire league. And so, at first, I struggled. I was like: "I'm not ready for this, I'm gonna be the worst baseball player— the worst college baseball player ever.” [laughs] And then as I settled in, I reminded myself that it's just baseball.
The same thing happened when the season actually started earlier this year. In our first series, we played TCU and it was overwhelming. I let the crowd get in my head and stuff like that. By our last game, on Sunday I was saying to myself: "You know, it's still baseball." It was kind of about settling in and realizing these guys are my age. You've kind of got to put it into perspective. Like, instead of thinking of them as these big college guys, I think of them as kids who are basically 18-23 years old. At the end of the day, it's just good baseball. So when you dumb it down to that, you're still playing the same game, you're still running 90 feet to first, you're still 60 feet away from the pitcher. So you've got to put everything into perspective.
John's Advice for Aspiring Athletes
“Just keep working and fall in love with the process because if you fall in love with the process, you're always going to keep striving to get better. You're always gonna have this urge to push to the next level which means you're never going to settle or be content with where you are. As an athlete, I think that's the best way to go because as soon as you settle, somebody else pushes past you. . . Just keep working hard, wake up every day, identify your weaknesses, and work at them. Then do it all over again. Day by day, wake up, identify the weaknesses and just go to work!”
I just shared some of John's experiences with high school and collegiate baseball. Did you ever play? What was it like for you? Tell us in the comments below! Feel free to share our tips and advice by hitting the share button and leaving a like!
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