There’s a pitch Jackson Raines throws that he considers to be unique to him. The Goochland High School senior learned this pitch – called “The Thing” – from his pitching coach.
“The weird thing about it is that it kind of changes every given day,” he said. “I don’t really know how it’s going to look until I start warming up and kind of get a feel for it.”
He said it’s kind of like a knuckle curve, although it’s not as loopy as a curve ball. Similar to a splitter, his trademark off-speed styled pitch looks like a fastball, but then drops off at the end.
Raines used that pitch a lot.
“I’ve had a lot of success with it.”
After getting called up to Goochland’s varsity unit towards the end of his sophomore year, the starting pitcher and infielder enjoyed a standout junior season. He posted a 7-3 record on the mound with an earned run average of 1.86, four complete-game wins and three complete-game shutouts.
In 52 and 2/3 innings of work, Raines struck out 64 batters and allowed 11 walks. Across the entire season, he gave up just one home run.
“The thing I notice now that I think helps me the most nowadays in high school . . . is just: I’m always level-headed and calm when I’m on the mound. Nothing really rattles me or gets to me, so I think that helps me a lot and helps me succeed,” he said. “The biggest thing for me is trusting my stuff and trusting my teammates, just knowing that . . . they’ll make a play for you when you need it.”
At the plate, Raines batted .343 with 16 RBI, nine runs scored, two triples and two doubles.
He’s played third base and pitched throughout his baseball career. Since he had a good arm, the coaches would stick him at third base because he can make the big throw to get runners out.
In 2019, he earned First Team All-District honors for both positions and was named the James River District Player of the Year. He also contributed to Goochland’s winning record of 14-7 last spring.
“Takeaways [from junior season] were just how important leadership is. Especially that year, we struggled a lot with injuries,” Raines said. “So I got a lot of innings and just a lot of time up there on the mound, and I just tried to give it all I had.”
Raines played JV most of his sophomore year before getting pulled up to varsity in time for the regional semifinals, in which he pitched two scoreless innings with a strikeout and a walk in his team’s 6-1 win over Prince Edward County, and then allowed two hits and one run while striking out two in one inning as the Bulldogs triumphed 10-7 over the Maggie Walker Governor’s School Green Dragons for the 2018 Region 2A Championship.
Among Raines’ most treasured memories of his varsity days was getting to play in the state tournament that year with Goochland, as well as sweeping a team he considers a rival in Randolph-Henry in 2019.
“They’re one of the best teams we play,” Raines said, “and we always have super-close games against them.”
Last year, Raines pitched two of his four complete-game wins against the Statesmen. Both were shutouts - Goochland won 1-0 on April 9 and 2-0 on May 9.
He’s been a regular on the diamond for nearly a decade, getting his start in the sport around 8 or 9 years old in the Tuckahoe Little League, for which he was zoned at the time.
“I just really fell in love with being around all my friends and just playing baseball,” Raines said. “That just kind of set me off on that path.”
Raines started travel ball when he was 11 and played for the Hanover Hornets, the Central Virginia Cardinals, the Manakin Militia and the Mid-Atlantic Orioles. When he was 12, he and his All-Star team got to play on ESPN in the Super Regionals, held in Warner Robins, Georgia. They were one game away from reaching the Little League World Series.
Around that time, when he was in sixth grade, he tried out for middle school ball.
“It’s pretty hard as a sixth grader to make the team, so that was like a big accomplishment for me to make the middle school team,” Raines said. “That was the first time I got into Goochland sports.”
Most of Raines’ friends have come from his time playing baseball and golf.
”Playing with the guys that I’ve grown up with was such a cool experience,” he said. “You’re definitely a lot tighter and you know everyone and you can kind of speak up more and . . . no one’s really going to question you. Everyone knows you and they know that you’re trying to do things for the best.”
His coaches were great, he said.
“Coach [Wes] Farkas is awesome. I learned a lot from him, just bringing me up and making me a part of the group. Also Coach [Sean] Singleton on JV, that was my first high school experience when I played for him freshman and a little bit of sophomore year. He’s an awesome coach, he loves to joke around,” Raines said. “Also, Coach Farkas, he does a lot of team-building activities…last year we would go out and do a ropes course he built – just stuff to bring the team together – and I think that gave us a little bit of an extra edge.”
A dual-sport leader
Not long after he began his baseball career, Raines, when he was around 10 or 11 years old, first started playing golf through the camps he attended at Bogeys Sports Park. He was 13 when his family actually moved onto a golf course. That’s when he really started getting into golf.
He began playing for the high school team as a freshman and had a lot of fun with his older teammates. He’s gotten to play alongside many familiar faces, with this year’s consistent top five including his baseball teammates Cole Bashinski, Kyle Goff and Walker Murray, and his younger sister, Bibby Raines.
“I’d say at least half of the golf team played baseball as well,” Jackson Raines said. “I think I did a good job of recruiting some of them to play golf.”
Since his freshman season, Raines played around the no. 2 and 3 spots before moving into the top position as a senior.
“When I was golfing, I wasn’t really thinking about anything else. That was just my free time,” he said. “It wasn’t as competitive for me as baseball, so I kind of can just relax and just have a good time out on the course. . . . It just helped me kind of get away from anything else that was bothering me.”
Raines earned the opportunity his sophomore year to play in regionals alongside former teammate and Goochland alum Peyton Butts.
“That was a super cool experience,” Raines said. “A lot of really good golfers were there that I got to play with.”
From their lone scrimmage with Chancellor, Raines observed that his team looked really good going into the 2020 season.
“I was super excited to see what we could do and just play one more season, because I know” – he added with a chuckle – “me and my friends always talk about it all year and just get super excited leading up to it.”
Then came the pandemic.
The ongoing worldwide crisis involving COVID-19 led to the closure of Virginia schools for the rest of the academic year and the subsequent cancellation of the spring sports seasons. Goochland baseball’s season was over before it could officially begin.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking that … it looks like we’re not going to have a season and we can’t really do anything about it,” Raines said. “It kind of stinks that I didn’t get to play one more year with them, but it is what it is. I’ll cherish our time together and our memories.”
He recently put down his deposit for the Clemson College of Business. He has to go through pre-business first, but he’d definitely like to get into marketing.
He spoke to the possibility of playing club baseball or golf while he’s there.
“There were definitely a lot of goals that I didn’t get to achieve in baseball this year because of the pandemic obviously,” Raines said. “Just kind of trying to transfer that motivation towards something else like college, and just working harder.”
From his time on the field, Raines spoke to learning the importance of staying calm and keeping cool, especially during this time as the pandemic continues to affect and alter life across the globe.
“Nothing is guaranteed, and sometimes in life, you’re going to get thrown a curve ball,” he said. “You’ve just got to move on.”