ROCKINGHAM — Early Monday morning, senior Jonathan Lee sat in front of the school’s new Nike backdrop and signed his letter of intent to continue his baseball career at UNC-Pembroke. He was joined at the table by his parents, Cindy and Greg Lee, head baseball coach Ricky Young and assistant baseball coach Andy Shuler.
“It’s a big relief just to get it out of the way,” Lee said.
Being able to stay close to home, giving his parents the option to come watch him play on any given night, played a big part in Lee’s decision. The UNCP coaching staff allowing him to remain a two-way player also heavily affected his commitment.
Lee has flourished during his two years on Richmond’s varsity team as a pitcher and a hitter — in the middle of the lineup.
He was selected to the all-conference team after his sophomore campaign, when the Raiders won the conference championship and made it to the third round of the state playoffs. As a junior, Lee tallied 49 strikeouts and one save on the mound and led the team with 19 RBI and two home runs as a batter.
“Getting the opportunity to be a two-way player is rare in college. I think that’s a great opportunity for him, and I think that it’s something he can do,” Young said. “He’ll definitely go down there and compete for playing time early.”
When he gets to Pembroke, the future Brave wants to spend his time — in the classroom — working towards a teaching degree so he can “come back and coach” once his playing career is over.
On the field, however, Lee will have the chance to play alongside former Raider Ethan Baucom, a 2017 NCCSIA All-State and Second Team All-PBC selection, who was a major part of the 2017 team that won the second-most games in program history (41), made an appearance in the conference tournamant championship and earned a victory in the NCAA Tournament.
“They have a good baseball program — a good culture,” Lee added. “The team is good and will continue to be while I’m there. I look forward to earning a starting position and just doing the best that I can.”
As he continues to prepare for his senior season, which begins in February, Lee hopes the team can build off its state-championship run through the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League just four months ago.
Young said the UNCP signee is “definitely one of our leaders and a big part of what we do.” His experience at the plate and on the mound is going to be key for the Raiders as they enter their first year in the Sandhills Athletic Conference, with new conference opponents Jack Britt and Seventy-First.
They’ll be looking to take home the conference’s inaugural title.
“I just want to lead the best way I can and get the younger guys to step up and be good in the weight room,” Lee said. “We’ve just got to be prepared for opening day, come out and be strong.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.
Richmond’s Jonathan Lee, middle, signed his letter of intent to play college baseball at UNC-Pembroke early Monday morning in the school library. He was joined by parents Greg Lee, left, and Cindy Lee, right, as well as baseball coaches Ricky Young and Andy Shuler.