In the United States, we love the underdog—the guy who beats the odds and succeeds in spite of overwhelming circumstances, the person who, maybe undeservedly, gets a second chance and makes the most of it. Enter Isaiah Arnold, a shortstop and pitcher for the Shaw Raiders. Arnold, who by his own admission was a troublemaker at his first high school, Hardaway, nearly missed out on what has turned out to be an excellent high school baseball career. He did his best to squander an opportunity. In the end, however, he righted the ship and straightened himself out. And Arnold did so in the nick of time.
The four years spent playing high school athletics are often the best years of a person’s life. Individuals well into their later years often fondly recall the days they spent representing their schools on the field of play. Some sports, like running, tennis, golf, and swimming, are sports that can be enjoyed for a person’s entire life. Others, such as football, baseball, wrestling, and basketball, have a shelf life. A day will come when someone, somewhere, will tell an athlete in such a sport that he or she is no longer good enough to play. For most student-athletes, that comes sooner rather than later. And that makes the days, months, and years playing one of these sports all the more special.
Isaiah Arnold nearly saw those precious years he had to play high school baseball cut in half by his own recklessness. A gifted athlete who has all five tools, he almost turned out to be his own worst enemy. “I got kicked off the team at Hardaway. I was getting into too much trouble. When that happened, I knew it was time for me to grow up,” he recalls.
Arnold played for two years at Hardaway. He didn’t play his junior year and thought his high school baseball career was over. Then he made the move to Shaw for his senior year. Arnold says he liked Shaw’s history of good baseball. In the end, though, the biggest thing he wanted to do was simply play. It didn’t matter with whom. He just wanted to be back out on the field again. “Honestly, I wanted to play
Arnold made the most of the opportunity. The Raiders didn’t make the playoffs this year, but Arnold enjoyed a solid year. He hit .405 with 10 doubles, 11 RBI, 14 stolen bases, 16 walks, and just three strikeouts. He made just four errors and recorded 45 put-outs. His biggest moment came against Beauregard. Shaw trailed 5-2 and battled back to get within one. With two outs in the top of the seventh and the tying run on second, Arnold got his turn at the plate. He singled to tie the game, which Shaw went on to win.
That kind of production had several colleges vying for his attention. The troublemaker, whose high school baseball career was in jeopardy just a couple of years ago, was going to have the chance to play for at least four more years. Among the schools looking at him were Albany State, Columbus State, Middle Georgia, and Brewton-Parker. Arnold eventually chose Brewton-Parker in Mount Vernon. “I needed to get out of Columbus. Three former teammates are at Brewton-Parker, and two more teammates from travel ball are going there, as well. They’ve got a real good program over there, and I felt like it was the best fit for me,” he says.
Arnold fully recognizes the second chance he has been given. And he understands just how fleeting the opportunity to play sports can be. For a brief time, he surrendered that opportunity through poor choices and bad behavior. He doesn’t want history to repeat itself. “Baseball will always humble you. It’s a game of short memories. You can’t let the negative stuff stay in your head, and you can’t get cocky. Baseball will always humble you. I’m glad I could play again. And now, I’m ready to explore the world,” he says.
Isaiah Arnold isn’t a big kid. At 5’9” and 145 pounds, he’s slightly built and far from imposing. But he’s fast. He is a student of whatever game he happens to be playing. And he’s a bona fide playmaker. With those qualities, he would have made an excellent football player. Growing up, he also played basketball. However, he stopped playing basketball several years ago and never played football. “I always thought about football, but I just never went forward with it,” he says. Regarding basketball, he states that he was pretty good at the sport, but it never was his passion. “I saw myself maturing and getting better at baseball, more so than with basketball. My coaches and teammates were encouraging me. So I just kept playing baseball and stopped everything else,” he says.
• Major league team: New York Yankees
• Player: Derek Jeter
• Subject: Math
• Least favorite: Science
• Coke or Pepsi: Neither
• Superpower: Mind reading
• Sport you wish you could play: Badminton
• Person to meet: Tupac Shakur
Player Spotlight/Columbus Valley/June 2014
Shaw High School
Robert Preston Jr.
Isaiah Arnold: A testament to the importance of second chances