It was a sight to see for Jaxon Mackelprang, a Utah high schooler who was visiting Centralia two weeks ago. The trees, the shrubs and plants — never before had he seen so much green.
Mackelprang, a senior at Dixie High School in St. George, Utah, had lived most of his life in the brown, barren desert of Southwestern Utah near the Arizona and Nevada borders. He was used to seeing the painted hills of the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, not towering stands of never-ending Douglas firs and alder trees.
But Mackelprang wasn’t here on vacation, he was in town to meet up with Centralia College baseball coach Kawika Emsley-Pai and tour the campus. Mackelprang, a star catcher for the Flyers, had been in contact with the Blazers since July when Emsley-Pai texted him after seeing game tape through the online recruiting network FieldLevel. Emsley-Pai offered him a scholarship a month later during a Zoom call, then the two set-up the official visit in September.
After the visit, while still in Washington, Mackelprang called the coach and told him he was accepting the offer.
“I just liked everything about it and the coaches,” Mackelprang said.
It’s a relief for Mackelprang to lock up a scholarship so soon, he said. Now he can just focus on his final season of high school ball and not worry about the future.
Mackelprang said his goal was to “just keep having a uniform to play in.”
His baseball career started at 4 or 5 years old when his mother signed him up for a team without talking to him beforehand. He had never played a sport in his life at the time.
“She’s like, I signed you up for Little League,’” Mackelprang said. “I had no idea what the heck that was. I didn’t even know what baseball was. I was so confused. Then it turns out that’s the only sport I play now.”
It didn’t take Mackelprang long to catch on. He fell in love with the team bonding, the push to get better, the adrenaline, the pressure. He joined his first travel team at 8 years old and has been on one every year since. He estimates he plays baseball 11 months out of the year.
He made Dixie High School’s varsity roster as a sophomore, helping the team go 25-5 and advance to the Class 4A state championship game, a loss that ended the Flyers two-time state title run.
He took over as starting catcher as a junior during the 2019-20 season. For the seven games listed on Maxpreps that year, Mackelprang batted .429 with six hits, three RBIs and two runs in 19 plate appearances. He was just as efficient on defense, finishing with a .957 fielding percentage.
His primary position is catcher but has the athleticism to play corner infield and even some corner outfield, if necessary, Dixie head coach Danny Ipson said.
“Jaxon is a hard-working and very coachable player,” Ipson said. “He will be a middle of the lineup hitter for us here at Dixie this coming season, and we’ll expect him to carry some of the load from a leadership and production standpoint. He is a great teammate and will be a definite positive addition to (Centralia College’s) program.”
Mackelprang will be joining a Trailblazers team next year that went 5-5 this spring, the second-best overall record in the Northwest Athletic Conference West Region, before the season was canceled due to COVID-19. They lose 10 total players from last season, including five who moved on to four-year programs.
“I’m excited to have new teammates and a new atmosphere to play in,” Mackelprang said. “It feels like all my work has paid off, so far, but there’s still a ton more to work for.”