06/16/17 — All Area -- Jason King

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All Area -- Jason King

By Justin Hayes
Published in Sports on June 16, 2017 7:25 AM

He grew up like his players, parallel to a teeming highway, where little interrupted Babe Ruth league but sprawling runs of letter-perfect corn and Sunday worship.

Deep Run -- an unincorporated band of Baptists and Blue Devils -- is sparse. The air is hot, smells like the grind of combine reels and could easily be the exquisitely-dressed muse for Jason Isbell's Speed Trap Town.

On a corner of the new Highway 111, where Tyndall Williams Drive begins its lumbering loop through the old Highway 111, pinestraw bundles are parceled at $4.50 per bale.

In short, it's an honest slice of life.

And if one is always the sum of his formative years, it's no surprise that Jason King, the 2017 News-Argus All-Area Baseball Coach of the Year, found his way from there to Rosewood High School.

There are even pictures to prove it.

King's life now, the day job part of it, any way, is lived in close proximity to the intersection of N.C. Highway 581 and Rosewood Road -- a place familiar to him in more ways than a few.

The food mart, complete with Skittles for the school crowd and fried chicken for the cast-iron set, pins down one corner. Opposite, a wink to the east, Rosewood Baptist extends its grace to all comers -- and brings a smile to the skipper's face.

"Yes sir," King says of the photo. "I attend there once in a while, when I'm not going back home to go to church. It's home, it's community. Rosewood just feels like where I'm supposed to be."

And he's right.

Travel the junction's immediate area and you'll feel it, too.

From the barber shop sign dressed in the school's signature deep purple to the diner serving fish stew, smothered pork chops and spaghetti, it's all there -- home sweet home.

Cut from a long-ago mold, Rosewood has proven sturdy over time. It's neither behind nor in a hurry, houses students in neighboring buildings from kindergarten through tassel time and is the place one can buy real strawberries -- from Miss Madison's stand, no less -- unlike those at Wally World.

And as you may have heard, it's a baseball haven.

This year's outfit was both industrious and inspiring, morphing from a casting-call bullpen in February to a contact-hitting truckload of run production by mid-April.

With a troupe of rotation regulars keeping opposing dugouts at bay, the Eagles crossed 28 runs in three games at the Golden Leaf Invitational in Wilson and never looked back.

Over their final 12 games -- which included a season-ending loss to 1-A state titlist Whiteville in the N.C. High School Athletic Association east regional final -- the Eagles were at their most efficient, generating 101 of their 195 total hits to finish the season with a shockwave-like team batting average of .340.

Along the way, records were smashed.

Stars, like freshman Will Albert and Max White, were unearthed.

And yes, a conference title was secured.

But when presented a glossy black-and-white of his platoon from the aftermath of a two-hour, drilled-down workout ahead of its first-round playoff tilt with East Carteret, King didn't see a pool of stars.

He saw selflessness.

"This is what it's all about, right there," the coach said with a smile. "At the end of the day, whether we win 23 games or we don't win any -- if we can come out here and play for the man upstairs, play for each other, and play for the name on the front of our jersey, then we're doing everything we can do as people... to be a family, we pride ourselves on that."

It's a concept King has been working on a good while now, with help from the good folks of Deep Run, which in all likelihood, look remarkably like he does.