As John Reed Evans squatted behind home plate at Sprayberry High School in Marietta, he knew he would be playing his final game of baseball, quite possibly ever, at least competitively.
He had accepted that.
It was early July and his Titans Academy team — a group of players, Evans included, with no college baseball in their future — had essentially crumbled at this juncture of the summer.
So much so that only four regulars on the team showed up for this particular game. Former teammates were contacted and even Evans' younger brother stepped up to allow the game to be played.
All it did was change everything for John Reed Evans.
At that moment, Evans was a recent graduate of Cartersville High. A member of the Canes' state runner-up baseball team who didn't play much after the first few weeks of the season. His college plan was to attend Kennesaw State.
Less than a month later, Evans returned to Cartersville High, specifically the media center on Tuesday afternoon, to sign his national letter of intent to continue his baseball career at Shorter University.
It all goes back to that final game.
Evans played catcher quite a bit during 2017 and years prior, but he played the position in games a total of two times in 2018. Once during the high school season against Parkview — one of the top teams in the country — and that supposed final game ever.
A scout from Shorter happened to be at the latter game. The Hawks needed a catcher, as they were down to one on the roster after a key player moved to first base.
A player with nothing to play for impressed in the game that meant nothing. They made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
"I didn't know how to hang up my cleats," Evans said. "I really just wanted to keep on playing. They gave me the opportunity to do that, and I was all over it."
For a player who didn't get to feature much in the latter stages of Cartersville's outstanding season, the chance to play college baseball is truly a remarkable achievement for Evans.
It also sends him to college with a definite chip on his shoulder and, as he put it, a "rejuvenated spirit."
"This has been my dream since I was 4 years old and able to comprehend what college baseball is all about," Evans said. "I'm super stoked to be getting this opportunity. It couldn't have worked out any better. I'm really excited to get it all started and really show everybody what I've got."
Cartersville High baseball coach Kyle Tucker said everyone associated with the program and the school in general is excited for Evans. Tucker, in particular, seemed thrilled that a guy who embodied what it meant to be a team player is getting this opportunity.
The way Evans landed his offer says everything about the kind of person Shorter is adding to its roster, and Tucker thinks Evans' story should serve as a reminder to those who might not get the most playing time on their team.
"He performed, performed well and performed at the right time," Tucker said. "It's just a lesson for everybody. You never know when someone is watching. You never know when doing the right thing will get rewarded. This is a perfect example of that."
Evans started several games at the beginning of the Canes' season before losing his starting spot to now-junior Josh Davis. It relegated the senior to use mostly as a pinch-hitter and a pinch-runner, but he also took on the role, or rather expanded his role, of being a positive teammate.
His influence on the other members of that historic team was showcased in April when he hit a walk-off double to end a 15-0 win over Cedartown in four innings.
"The team sprinted out of the dugout," Tucker said, recalling the play. "They ran after him and celebrated. It was a really cool moment, and I loved seeing that. That just tells you, the guys who were playing every day saw that, respected his work ethic, knew he was a good player and cheered for him really hard in that moment."
They undoubtedly celebrated just as fervently when they found out Evans would be going on to the next level. A dream that seemed to have ended suddenly revived, and Evans will forever be grateful for that.
"It's incredibly humbling," he said. "I know that God put me in this position for a reason. I knew that when everything came together — Shorter is a Christian school anyways — I knew that was His plan for me, once everything was settled for me."