JACKSONVILLE - Cash Cleaver has cashed in with a baseball scholarship.
The Jacksonville High School senior recently signed a national letter of intent to attend Stephen F. Austin State University.
Local officials said Cleaver is the first Fightin' Indian to sign a baseball scholarship with a Division I program out of high school in over two decades. Kenny Canady inked with New Mexico State in 1993.
"I'm on top of the world," said the 17-year-old Cleaver.
The ceremony was held before family members and coaches at the JHS field house on Nov. 11.
Cleaver spent many long summers along with fall seasons playing baseball. Playing on select teams helped him earn the scholarship, he said.
Cleaver plays outfield and pitcher for the Indians but will concentrate on hitting and the outfield for the Lumberjacks. He has also lettered in football and golf at Jacksonville HS.
"I'm excited to going to be going to Nacogdoches and in being able to represent my home town," Cleaver said. "It is not too far from home and my family will have an opportunity to watch me play."
Cleaver had many junior college offers as well as other D-I programs such as powerhouse Louisiana-Lafayette, but once SFA came calling Cleaver committed.
"I get to play at a great school in a great conference (Southland Conference)," Cleaver said. "SFA plays LSU, Rice, Texas A&M … and other good teams."
Cleaver is the fourth member of his immediate family to play collegiate athletics at the D-I level. His father, Jimmy Cleaver, played football at the University of Arkansas.
Cleaver was a member of the All-District 16-5A first-team baseball squad in 2015 and helped the Jacksonville golf team reach regionals in 2014. He also won medalist honors in the 2014 Tyler Lee Invitational Golf Tournament held at Hollytree Country Club.
Cleaver will play golf and baseball in the spring, but will concentrate on baseball in college in hopes of making it to Major League Baseball some day.
Cleaver, who will major in marketing, said it takes a lot of people to earn a scholarship.
"You can't reach this point without a lot of help," Cleaver said. "Of course, my parents (Jimmy and Ginger Cleaver) - not only financially but also their emotional support."
He added several coaches are responsible for his success, starting with Billy Redd, a long-time youth baseball coach in Jacksonville. Cleaver said Redd helped instill a strong work ethic in him.
Cleaver also mentioned Robert Ellis (former MLB pitcher), who was also his coach with East Texas Elite, a select baseball team, Charlie Franklin (hitting coach from Henderson) and Keith Mayo (East Texas Red Sox coach).