Q&A: Jack Jolly, father of Clemson baseball starter Robert Jolly

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 24: The NCAA logo is shown on the field before the Oregon State Beavers game against the North Carolina Tar Heels during game one of the NCAA College World Series Baseball Championship at Rosenblatt Stadium on June 24, 2006 in Omaha, Nebraska. The Tar Heels defeated the Beavers 4-3. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 24: The NCAA logo is shown on the field before the Oregon State Beavers game against the North Carolina Tar Heels during game one of the NCAA College World Series Baseball Championship at Rosenblatt Stadium on June 24, 2006 in Omaha, Nebraska. The Tar Heels defeated the Beavers 4-3. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) /

The number two ranked Clemson baseball team struggled against No. 19 N.C. State(18-3, 5-1) this weekend and suffered their first series loss. After the disappointing effort at home, they will hope to get back on track tomorrow against No. 27 Coastal Carolina in Conway, SC. 

After dropping from No. 2 to No. 10, Clemson (16-4, 3-3) will travel to Coastal Carolina(15-7, 3-0) tomorrow with hopes of ending their current three-game losing streak. The Tigers were swept by the Wolfpack this weekend and struggled to score(five runs), gave up five home runs and had five errors. The five errors all occurred in Friday’s 5-0 loss.

Robert Jolly, a senior OF/DH, went 0-4 on Sunday in the 5-4 loss and 2 of 9 in the series. On Tuesday, he will hope for better results and a win in his hometown. Jolly played for his dad, Jack Jolly, at Carolina Forest High, and was recruited by Coastal Carolina but committed to Liberty University before eventually signing with the Tigers.

The two-time All-ACC Academic Honoree has been a consistent contributor at Clemson for three years and this season, he is batting .280 with 11 RBIs. One of the highlights for Jolly this season, was his sprint from first base to slide in for the game-winning run over South Carolina on Mar. 4. His base running after outfielder Drew Wharton’s triple gave the Tigers the 8-7 walk-off win and Jolly a career undefeated series record(4-0) against the rivals.

I caught up with Jack, head baseball coach at Dorman High, to talk about Robert, his family’s relationship with the Renfrow family and the upcoming showdown with Coastal Carolina.

Q: I know Robert initially committed to Liberty University, de-committed and then committed to Clemson. Why was Clemson the best choice for him?

Jack Jolly: Clemson was a dream school for Robert, so when he got an opportunity to play there, he took advantage of it. He had some other options, but if baseball didn’t work out–Clemson is where he wanted to go to school.

Q: Robert came to Clemson as a catcher but has locked into the DH position for a third year now. He’s definitely been successful in that position but did he have any reservations about the move or just missed being a catcher?

Jack Jolly: No doubt he would like to be on the field, but Robert wants to help the team anyway he can, so whether it was catching or being the DH–he was fine with it. Being the DH was a way for them to get his bat in the line-up when he was not catching. He continued to work on catching while he was in the DH spot the past 3 years. This year, Robert has changed positions defensively and moved to the outfield and really likes it and continues to DH, when he is not playing the outfield.

Q: You coached him at Carolina Forest High in Myrtle Beach before you went to Dorman. As his former coach, what growth have you seen in him as a player?

Jack Jolly: He has continued to improve in all areas which has been nice to watch, and is a testament to the coaches at Clemson and how well they develop players. He has always been able to hit, but this year he has really improved on taking border line pitches. I think I have seen the most growth in defense and increasing his speed.

Q: What growth have you seen in him as a person?

Jack Jolly: He has really matured into manhood and it has been exciting to see that growth. He thinks more of others and has grown to be a great teammate. He has also grown spiritually, taking lead in a team Bible Study and speaking for Fellowship of Christian Athletes(FCA) some.

Q: In a 2017 interview with Clemsontigers.com, he was asked, “If you could have dinner with anyone who would it be and why?” He was asked to name two people and the late Rev. Billy Graham was one of his choices. Most college students of his age would not pick such a religious figure. How important is his faith to him and how did he react to Graham’s death?

Jack Jolly: His faith is utmost importance to him and as I stated earlier, it has been an area that Robert has really grown while away at college. Not really sure his reaction to Rev. Graham’s death, but now Robert knows that when he gets to heaven, Rev Graham will be there, and maybe they can have that dinner one day.

Q: There is another student athlete at Clemson who is public about his faith and is also from Myrtle Beach, SC,–Hunter Renfrow, Robert’s roommate. Renfrow played football and baseball at Socastee High, a rival to Carolina Forest, so how did they become such good friends?

Jack Jolly: I got my start in teaching and coaching at GSF(Green Sea Floyds). At the time, Tim Renfrow was the athletic director and head football coach there, and he hired me to coach baseball. We roomed together that first year before he went to Socastee. When I moved back to the beach, to coach at Carolina Forest, we reconnected with Tim and his family through coaching and FCA. Our kids grew up getting to know each other at FCA camps and then continued their friendship while competing against each other in high school.

Q: Did they ever discuss going to the same college?

Jack Jolly: Yes, they actually did talk about going to the same school.

Q: On Tuesday, the Tigers play Coastal Carolina, your alma mater, and he is currently 1-1 in his career against the school that also recruited him. How tough is that matchup for you and will you be there?

Jack Jolly: I will not be at the game at CCU, but I will be able to attend the game against CCU at Clemson. It’s really not that hard, yes I am an alumni of CCU, played baseball there also and pull for them in every other game, but when it comes to family and your own son, that’s where my loyalties lie!

Q: Did you want him to go to Coastal?

Jack Jolly: Yes, I would have liked to see him go to Coastal. They have a really good program. I think a great deal of their coaching staff and at the time it was very close to home. But, it did not work out and he is where he is supposed to be!

Q: Have you attended the other games between them?

Jack Jolly: Yes , I have been able to see one at CCU and one at Clemson. I was able to see him catch against Coastal at Clemson last year.

Q: Robert has been in the college baseball playoffs like Hunter has been in the college football playoffs, but he hasn’t got that national championship. How special would it be if the two boys from the beach who both had atypical paths to Clemson, graduate with national titles?

Jack Jolly: That would be awesome to say the least. Hopefully, that can become reality this season.

Clemson will play Coastal Carolina at Spring Brooks Stadium at 6:00 p.m on Tuesday.

The Chanticleers are coming off a road series sweep of Arkansas State and scored 26 runs in Saturday’s 26-14 win. They have wins over Oklahoma, Kansas State, Illinois, West Virginia, Ohio State, and beat ACC members Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, 17-2 and 19-3, respectively.

Last year, Clemson defeated the Chants at Doug Kingsmore Stadium 11-8 when Seth Beer hit a grand slam in the eight inning at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

Noteworthy: Matthew Jolly, Robert’s older brother, is the Director of video scouting and player development at Coastal Carolina University.