Pinecrest High's head football coach Chris Metzger isn't surprised that Baldwin has excelled at football, rather than baseball.
Although he's not receiving any looks for baseball, Baldwin isn't a slouch on the diamond. He has started on Pinecrest's powerhouse baseball team, which is managed by his father, since his freshman year. He plays in the outfield and bats second.
Metzger and his coaching staff arrived at Pinecrest in 2007 to a major rebuilding project. Pinecrest won a total of five games over the course of the five seasons prior to Metzger's arrival – including none in 2006.
As a sophomore, Baldwin, a 6-foot-3, 181-pounder, quickly emerged as a player who would assist in Metzger's rebuilding project.
"James is a fiery competitor," Metzger said. "He's got a great pedigree so he knows what it takes to be successful athletically and socially and academically. He just makes plays."
"I think what's separating him from being a top five-kid in the country is his top-end speed. But I have never seen a kid go up and get the ball [like him] – his body control is second to none."
Baldwin started solely at wide receiver until the last five games of the season when a "mono epidemic" forced him to also pick up a starting role at defensive back.
"He was kind of a lone ranger," Metzger said. "He was going up against guys like Earl Wolff, who's at NC State, the kids at Scotland County – he was going up against D1 kids as a sophomore."
Baldwin ended his sophomore season with 42 catches for 713 yards. He also recorded 33 tackles and seven pass break-ups. More importantly, Pinecrest won three games, which was more victories than the previous three seasons combined.
Last season, Baldwin's offensive statistics slipped as Pinecrest switched to a split back veer offense and skilled players emerged from the senior class (Pinecrest had a receiver and tight end sign with D-1AA schools). However, his yards-per-catch improved (20.1-yard average on 22 catches) as did his touchdown receptions (five).
"His production was actually better and we distributed the ball better, which allowed us to have a better season," Metzger said.
Pinecrest posted a 7-5 record, including the school's first victory over Richmond High, who would go on to win the NCHSAA 4A State Title.
Baldwin also punted and kicked off for Pinecrest last season. He averaged 41 yards a punt, on the season.
Pinecrest will continue to run the split back veer this season, but the goal overall will be to utilize Baldwin to the fullest.
"He's our go-to guy," Metzger said. "We've got to find a way to get the ball in his hands more next year. Having a guy of his stature, other guys are going to benefit from the attention he draws. But we're still going to find ways to get him the ball."
After a year hiatus, Baldwin will return to the defensive secondary – at least part-time as a nickel or dime back.
"J.B. is going to have to see more opportunities [on defense] just simply from a standpoint of the kind of athlete he is," Metzger said. "Obviously since he's a great outfielder and has great ball skills, on third-and-long he'll be good because he's used to seeing the ball come off the bat and getting a jump on it."
According to Metzger, colleges throughout the nation have inquired about Baldwin, including Duke, East Carolina, Georgia, Louisville, Miami, UNC, NC State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Tennessee, UCLA, and Wake Forest.
Three weeks ago, East Carolina extended Baldwin his first scholarship offer. Two other in-state schools appear close to following suit.
"I think NC State and North Carolina are real close," Metzger said. "But I think it's going to be a situation where they want him to come for a camp. Both of them have said unless it's a really special kid, they don't offer unless he's come to camp."
In addition to UNC and NC State, Baldwin is considering camping at Clemson this summer.
Baldwin has received a lot of junior day invitations. But his baseball season has forced him to be selective in his recruiting travels. He did, however, accept UNC's and NC State's invites.
Baldwin attended UNC's Junior Day last Saturday.
"It went really well," Baldwin said. "It's different. It's a nice program at UNC. They're redoing the stadium and there's a lot of stuff they're trying to build on to what they've got right now."
A scheduling conflict prevented Sam Pittman, who is recruiting Baldwin for UNC, from being present during UNC's Junior Day. Butch Davis substituted for Pittman and met with Baldwin.
"We talked about what I need to work on and that he liked my film," Baldwin said.
Baldwin is attempting to simplify his recruitment by narrowing his list of suitors.
"There are a lot of schools out there," Baldwin said. "I'm trying to narrow it down to a top four, top three."
Baldwin's favorites list will likely mostly include in-state schools.
"My parents are behind me 100-percent wherever I go, but I want to stay in-state," Baldwin said. "I want to stay close to home."
In addition to his football and baseball accolades, Baldwin averaged ten points coming off the bench for Pinecrest's basketball team this season.