JoJo Tann stays upbeat as career moves ahead

JoJo Tann broke a finger at the end of fall ball. But in usual Tann style, he didn't let it bother him. He knows it's a minor situation that he will be over in a short time. He's hoping it's the last of some setbacks he's had during his time at UM so far.

Every team has its own personality. Every player, too.

JoJo Tann could certainly be called one of the "personalities" of the Ole Miss baseball team.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder (he arrived at UM in the summer of 2004 weighing 165) from Jackson Prep is as close to the team jokester as anyone. It's been that way since he got to campus.

But it's all in a good way. It's all a good thing. He helps keep any tense or tight situations looser, keep the mood in the locker room and dugout light.

It's what JoJo's all about as well being a pretty solid baseball player.

But Tann has experienced his share of setbacks since arriving at Ole Miss. After redshirting his first year in college, Tann underwent wrist surgery which kept him out of action last fall and hindered his advancement with the team. He played last spring, mostly as a pinch runner or pinch hitter. He got a couple of hits in 12 at-bats.

This fall the former Dandy Dozen pick by the Clarion-Ledger as a high school senior played well, finally healthy, except for the broken finger the last week of fall ball. JoJo jokingly says he's "that guy," the one who comes to play and is hurt his whole career.

But, as with most things, he laughs it off and goes about his business. That consists mainly of trying to help the team anyway he can.

"I feel good about how things have gone this fall. I hit over .300 and had some stolen bases. I'm finally playing my style of ball, doing what they want me to do, which is use my speed. I only had one strikeout this fall in over 30 at-bats, so that's good. I'm just focusing on putting the ball in play on the ground every time up, no matter what or who I'm facing, no matter what the situation is. I need to hit line drives and hard ground balls, and good things will happen."

Tann, who calls himself "the fastest non-Henry on the team" discounting brothers Justin and Jordan who possess blazing speed, stole nine bases in the intrasquads this fall. That tied him with the true freshman Jordan for first place in the stolen base department.

He batted .324 (11-for-34) with three doubles and four RBI. He struck out just once.

Tann's versatility is evident by the positions he's played.

"In scrimmages I've DH'ed. I've played short, second, third, left, center, and right. I've played almost everywhere since I've been here. This fall I just played in the outfield, which has been good because I feel I got better every day. Coach (Carl) Lafferty and Coach (Matt) Mossberg have been helping me. I feel like it's gone pretty well. I got more comfortable every day and every pitch."

During the last weekend of fall scrimmages, Tann played one game in each of the three OF positions.

Tann helped Jackson Prep to back-to-back state championships as a junior and senior. He posted a three-year career batting average of .505 with three HRs and 69 RBI, and stole 88 bases in 91 career attempts. As a senior, batted .620 with 28 RBI and was 41-of-42 in stolen bases. He was an honorable mention high school All-America selection and earned four varsity letters.

That was all a while back now. Tann is just pleased that it appears he will be healthy when preseason practice in January rolls around.

"The fourth day I was here as a (true) freshman, I saw the trainer with a problem. It took a while to figure it out and I finally had surgery (on his wrist). There were some torn ligaments. Last fall I had a cast the whole time. This fall is the healthiest I've been since I've been here."

Tann hopes his patience and hard work will pay off in his third (sophomore) spring upcoming.

"Coach (Mike) Bianco has been more than fair to me. Everything's working out. Last year I was glad to contribute and play in 40 games. This year I'm looking to play an even bigger role and help the team however I can."

Tann is like a lot of Mississippi and Mid-South kids who now are a part of Ole Miss baseball, and who have become a part of Ole Miss because of baseball. Some, like JoJo, grew up Mississippi State fans because of family and in some cases because of Bulldog baseball. But now they bleed red and blue.

"Huge State family. Huge State fan. When it came time, I chose the program I felt was best for me. It had to do with baseball, and Coach Bianco and Coach (Dan) McDonnell, the program and the players here."

His dad and brother went to MSU; his mom to USM. He had uncles who went to State; his grandfather, too.

His family now has a condo in Oxford now, and JoJo says they love it here. Some of them are in Oxford for fall baseball intrasquads and sometimes even a football game.

"My dream was to play college baseball," Tann said. "This is where I needed to be. I love it here."

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