ORANGE BEACH, AL – Professional Scouts and Top Collegiate Baseball programs look for players that come close to having those 5-tools (Run, Throw, Hit, Hit for Power and Hit for Average) and Wallace-Dothan Community College Outfielder TJ Riles of Ellenwod (GA) is one of those players.
Being the son of former major leaguer Ernest Riles who played nine-years in the “Big Leagues” and a family full of athletes, it’s no wonder that TJ put some big numbers up at Wallace-Dothan CC this past season.
Riles, 6-2/200, batted an impressive .386 (71-184) in 57 games under Wallace-Dothan Coach Mackey Sasser, who also played in the major leagues. TJ’s numbers included four home runs, 43 RBI’s, 38 runs scored to go along with his 23 stolen bases.
TJ finished ranked in the “Top 10” Overall in many categories in Junior College Baseball. Batting Average: .386 (8th), Hits: 71 (3rd), Doubles: 15 (5th), Triples: 10 (1st), RBI’s: 43 (8th), Total Runs: 118 (2nd), Stolen Bases: 23 (2nd) and Slugging Percentage: .641 (4th).
Riles genes starts with his father who is from Cairo (GA), the same home as the “Great” Jackie Robinson. Like TJ, his father had outstanding bat speed where he led the Texas League in batting (.349) in 1983 before getting the call-up to the majors where he played with Milwaukee, San Francisco, Oakland, Houston and Boston.
TJ’s mother (Carol) was a four-sport athlete in high school. She played basketball, tennis and led her track team four-consecutive years to state. She was also a cheerleader.
His older sisters also had a huge influence on TJ’s competiveness. Sister Kelli received a full-scholarship to the University of North Carolina-Ashville where she was an outstanding basketball player and later played professionally over-seas. Sister Kamri received a full scholarship to the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, where she led her team to four-consecutive USA Gymnastic College National Championships.
Scouts and College Coaches first noticed TJ at a PRO-DAY Regional Showcase in Tallahassee (FL) where his performance earned him an invitation to participate in the PRO-DAY “North/South/East/West” National Showcase in Millington (TN) before coming a PRO-DAY All-American.
“PRO-DAY Baseball truly prepared me for what I’m going through now. PRO-DAY was my first workout and everyone was so knowledgeable and you knew what you needed to work on to become even a better player when you left,” said Riles. “I like the fact that there were a variety of scouts (Pro/College) there to keep an eye on you as you progress through the years. PRO-DAY truly prepared me.”
It’s really amazing the year TJ had at Wallace-Dothan and how he was able to stay focus with his Mom back home battling breast cancer on a daily basis just shows how strong TJ is and how his parents raised him.
“My mom is a God fearing strong person. She’s always positive. One of her favorite saying is “Keeping the Faith”, said TJ. “Even when you are going through things, there is a reason why we go through what we go through. This can only make us stronger and more faithful in our Lord.
“Watching her go through her cancer battle was hard but made me a better and more faithful person. She constantly reminded us, this battle is not hers, it’s the Lord,” he continued. “She was able to come to some of my games while going through treatment. My mother has inspired me to never stop dreaming. She always say, “Faith without work is dead”. She taught me and my siblings that hard work is necessary to bring the dreams to life and give 100% to everything we do.”
TJ is a leader on and off the field, according to Jeff Gross, CEO/Founder of PRO-DAY Baseball. “First time I spoke to TJ early on in his high school career, I knew he had good character and had a strong family background. One thing scouts can see is a players tools and what he can do. What scouts wonder about is his makeup and his desire to succeed. TJ has that “It” factor.”
Bill Earnhart, retired 43-year veteran major league scout, member of the 2001 World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks, who is National Scouting Director for PRO-DAY Baseball saw Riles on two different occasions in high school.
TJ has good balance at the plate, good bat speed, and hits with power to go with his 6.6 speed was the scouting report by the long-time scout. “I like TJ Riles,” said Earnhart. “He’s going to make someone into a winner”.
Riles hasn’t signed yet to a four-year college although the offers are coming in, but has been going to several Pre-Draft “Invitation” Try-out camps since his Juco season ended.
Looking back on this season, “What a great experience (past season) playing for Coach Mackey,” said Riles. “He not only made me a better player but made me a better person. He treated you like family.”
So what’s next for TJ Riles, “My current goal is to excel in the game of baseball in hopes of getting drafted, but also to complete college with a degree in Communications or Forensic Science”, he added. “My future goal is start a mentoring program along with my mother in support of breast cancer to make sure mammograms are being done.”
Whichever route TJ goes – he definitely will make someone a “Winner”!!!