How Hunter High went from 'unimpressive athlete' to Tennessee baseball signee in a few years

LEBANON ‑ When Tennessee baseball coach Tony Vitello offered a scholarship to Lipscomb Academy third baseman Hunter High in August 2021, there was no reason for High to think about his decision.

Five years ago, as a eighth-grader, High wrote a letter to himself that he wasn't supposed to read until his high school graduation. When High graduated a couple of weeks ago, he opened that letter and had a broad smile on his face.

"I completely forgot that I had written that I wanted to play college baseball at Tennessee," High said just after Lipscomb Academy's 6-4 loss to Knoxville Catholic Wednesday in the Division II-AA TSSAA baseball state tournament that forced an elimination game vs CPA. "It said, 'I want to be a college baseball or football player and that I want to play baseball at Tennessee.'"

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Both sports would play a big role in High achieving his goal. After writing that letter, High found himself struggling with baseball and with his confidence. He tried out for five different summer travel ball teams and no one picked him up. It was devastating.

"When Hunter finished his 14-year-old summer, he had broken his thumb midway through that summer (with the Knights)," said Hunter's father, Brent High. "He was pudgy. He had not gone through puberty fully at that point. He was just an unimpressive athlete. We could not find a team to take him."

Brent and his wife, Emily — a star basketball player at Lipscomb University in the late 1990s — kept encouraging Hunter to move forward with baseball. But it was his involvement with varsity football that not only changed Hunter's physique but changed his mental approach.

Lipscomb Academy's Hunter High prepares to take a swing at a MBA pitch moving toward home plate during their baseball game Tuesday, March, 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Lipscomb Academy's Hunter High prepares to take a swing at a MBA pitch moving toward home plate during their baseball game Tuesday, March, 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The arrival of former NFL strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson, brought in by former Mustangs coach Trent Dilfer, provided Hunter with the physical transformation that made it easier for him to change how he felt about himself. Hunter's time as the Mustangs outside linebacker, helping Lipscomb win consecutive DII-AA state titles, brought out an aggressive side to his personality that he's carried to the baseball field.

"That was huge," said Hunter, who had offers from Lipscomb, where Brent played, as well as MTSU and ETSU. "I felt stronger. I was faster. I was more athletic. I spent a lot of years just kind of wondering what I could be. I didn't look the part of a baseball player, or football player. But after transforming my body, I also transformed my mind."

The Mustangs' season ended with a 4-2 loss to CPA in the consolation bracket, leaving Hunter High only a few months away from stepping on campus in Knoxville as a Power 5 college athlete. The percentage of high school athletes who go on to play major Division I sports is small but persistence and a support group around Hunter have helped him beat long odds.

"It's kind of crazy because it's always seemed to so far away," Hunter said. "I mean when you have people in your corner, and I've had a ton from football coaches to travel ball coaches and my Lipscomb coaches and teammates, when they are in your corner, you can accomplish just about anything. I think I'm proof of that"

Reach sports writer George Robinson at and on Twitter @Cville_Sports.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee baseball: Hunter High went from 'unimpressive' to Vols signee