NORMAL -- Alex Jefferson was well aware of Matthew James and Adam McGinnis by the time all three enrolled last year at Normal Community West High School.
Jefferson played baseball against James and McGinnis in the summers and in junior high -- Jefferson at Kingsley, James and McGinnis at Parkside. Finally, they were united last spring on the Normal West freshman team.
"It was a fun season," Jefferson said. "We had pretty good talent and we jelled well together."
The result was a 30-2 record that provided a window to the future of Wildcats' baseball.
The future is here.
The view is stunning.
Jefferson, James and McGinnis are playing major roles on a 22-5 varsity team that is 7-1 in the Big 12 Conference.
Jefferson is an outfielder/pitcher hitting .422 in the leadoff spot. McGinnis is the starting catcher with a .443 average in the No. 3 hole. And James, a pitcher/infielder, is 5-0 with a 0.73 earned run average, 66 strikeouts and four walks in 38 1/3 innings.
Jefferson also has team-highs with five home runs, 31 runs batted in and 12 stolen bases; McGinnis has three homers and 25 RBI; and James is a .352 hitter with 17 RBI.
Call them "Super Sophs."
"Those guys were patient last year. They bided their time," West head coach Chris Hawkins said. "It was a chance for them to win with their group of kids. There's something to be said for that."
James said the three "developed personally and bonded quite well."
McGinnis called the experience "a lot of fun," adding, "Me and Matthew have played together since we were real little. To join forces with Alex, it's been really nice."
All are members of talented family trees. Jefferson's brother, Andrew, pitched at Normal West, Missouri State and in the minor leagues. James' father, Brad, starred at Normal Community, Illinois State and played in the minor leagues. McGinnis' sister, Erin, plays basketball at DePauw University.
"They have the genes and the bloodlines," Hawkins said. "They have instincts and they've played elite travel baseball for a long time. It's kind of a monster, but they've been right in the middle of it. Playing a lot of games, you get a lot of experiences."
The frequent play has led to a strong pitcher-catcher connection for James and McGinnis. Rarely do they disagree on pitch selection.
"I love it," said James, a right-hander with a sharp breaking curveball and a fastball in the low to mid-80s (mph). "He knows what I'm thinking and I have confidence in him. I can throw whatever I want whenever I want."
The comfort level extends to the dugout and beyond. McGinnis said West's older players have been "very welcoming," and added, "When you have older guys who aren't looking down on you just because you're a sophomore, it's wonderful."
Jefferson attributes that in part to the mindset established by Hawkins.
"That's something West is really good about," Jefferson said. "They set the precedent that everybody is always nice to the young players."
This year, it has been particularly easy, Hawkins said.
"Not only are the older guys good kids, but they're smart," West's 12th-year coach said. "They like winning, and they know these guys can help."