Behind the monster home runs, the wide shoulders, the raw speed and the powerful bat, Waterloo High senior Jordan McFarland is just another kid playing ball.
Or so he would have you believe.
For evidence to the contrary just ask O’Fallon High senior shortstop Camden Bauer, one of McFarland’s best friends and his summer teammate on the St. Louis Pirates travel team.
Bauer, an Alabama recruit, said there’s nothing ordinary about McFarland — or his talent.
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“There’s so many balls he’s hit that I’ve seen just absolutely destroyed,” Bauer said. “There was one this summer that got out of the stadium in 1.5 seconds. It was one of the hardest balls I’ve ever seem him hit. The ball was still rising as it was going out of the stadium.”
McFarland chalked that one up to being around top-level talent, as he has been throughout much of the past three seasons.
The ball comes off his bat with a different sound.
O’Fallon senior Camden Bauer on Waterloo’s Jordan McFarland
“The more you’re around that talent, the better you get” McFarland said. “When you actually do have success up there it makes a difference. It does give you confidence because you know that you can play with those guys.”
And that was with a wooden bat, something McFarland has used quite often at showcases and national-level events.
“The ball comes off his bat with a different sound,” Bauer said.
Bauer was with McFarland last winter on the day he was chosen National 17-under Player of the Year by Perfect Game USA. That honor typically goes to someone not from California, Florida or another warm-weather state.
Not someone from Waterloo in southern Illinois.
“Once you get to know him, you have no clue what’s going on,” Bauer said. “When he got that award, we grabbed dinner that night and we didn’t even talk about him.”
Bauer is a talented player in his own right, but he wondered just how far McFarland can go.
“I give him heck about it every day, ‘Don’t forget me when you go,’’’ Bauer said. “But he’s the most humble kid I’ve ever met. He deserves every bit of it of the attention.”
Bauer first met McFarland when both were sophomores attending a baseball showcase. They later became teammates on the Pirates and at first Bauer began wondering what all the hype was about.
“The first weekend I played with him he as awful,” Bauer said. “I heard all the hype about him and he had like 12 strikeouts. As the summer progressed he just kept hitting and hitting. He’s just a freak of nature.
He’s just a freak of nature. You don’t see that somebody that big and that athletic that can move the way he does. On top of that he’s got some of the best baseball insight I’ve ever seen.
O’Fallon’s Camden Bauer on Jordan McFarland
“You don’t see that somebody that big and that athletic that can move the way he does. On top of that he’s got some of the best baseball insight I’ve ever seen.”
Bauer began watching McFarland’s at-bats a little closer and quickly saw how the big guy would adjust from pitch to pitch.
“He’s got more plate discipline and better barrel control than I’ve ever seen,” Bauer said. “He works harder than anybody I know. He’s one of the most dedicated kids I’ve ever met and he’s definitely been a big influence on me.
“He’s just so passionate about the game because the game means so much to him. He’s a small-town kid, but he walks in and he puts on a show.”
McFarland tends to turn up the intensity depending on the competition.
“We were playing in Arizona and we saw the No. 2 pitcher from Florida,” Bauer said. “He was 93-94 (mph) and Jordan took a 93-mph fastball the other way. He destroyed him. It’s unreal what he does.”
Bauer recalled several times where McFarland toyed with the opposing pitcher just looking for one pitch to hit.
“I remember multiple times he’d sit there and have a 10-pitch at-bat.,” Bauer said. “I’d see him battle at 0-2, then take a pitch the other way. He’s steal second and then steal third on the next pitch.”
And what about McFarland’s favorite baseball memory outside of winning a state championship as a freshman at Gibault? It’s not what you might think.
McFarland and current Belleville West senior Cal Kossina were sixth-graders playing on the eighth-grade baseball team for St. James Grade School in Millstadt.
“I remember when we beat St. Teresa in the diocesan championship,” McFarland said, referring to the annual Catholic grade school post-season playoff tournament held each fall. “We upset Queen of Peace in the semifinals and me and Cal Kossina were the battery for the game. That was the first time we really won something that was important to us.
“I remember how excited we were when we won that. We weren’t expected to do much, so that was cool.”