Jimmy Jackson was driving home from a recruiting trip in June 2023 when his phone buzzed. Matt Swope was calling.

Swope touched base with the James Madison assistant about a week earlier to tell him a coaching change may occur at Maryland. He wanted Jackson to be his pitching coach if he got the job.

This time, Swope had more pressing news. A change was imminent. He wanted to confirm Jackson was committed to Maryland before Swope’s promotion became official. Jackson said he was. Maryland made the move official the next day, then Jackson received another phone call from a different, yet familiar voice.

“Hey man,” said Johnny Poss, then head coach at Division III Wilson College. “You’re gonna be a Terp?”

Jackson, still trying to keep his unofficial move quiet, acted confused.

“I’ve known Swope for like 25 years,” Poss said. “I’m going too.”

Baseball has connected Swope, Jackson and Poss for two decades. Now, their divergent paths have intersected in College Park. They form a staff with deep local ties — valuable connections that shape a recruiting emphasis on keeping the region’s talent home.

[Matt Swope could coach anywhere. But he’s never wanted to leave Maryland baseball.]

Poss, now the Terps’ recruiting coordinator, considers himself the middle man between Jackson and Swope.

Poss, a Bowie native, first met Swope at DeMatha Catholic High School, their alma mater. Poss played for the Stags with Swope’s cousin. Swope attended the school one year after Poss graduated.

When the pair retired from minor league baseball, Poss created the Cantina Bulls, a men’s league baseball team. Swope played on the squad in its first season.

Poss met Jackson when he joined the team two years later. They remained close for the next two decades before joining Maryland’s staff last summer. The relationship often took the form of Poss, a former infielder, peppering Jackson with pitching questions while at his previous job.

“I’m not a pitching guy, I never pitched, you got to help me out,” Jackson recalled Poss saying.

Jackson joined the Terps after eight years as James Madison’s pitching coach, where six hurlers got drafted. The coach had similar success at Fordham from 2011 to 2015 — four arms were selected in the draft during that time. That sparked James Madison head coach Marlin Ikenberry’s interest in Jackson when crafting his first staff in 2016.

The two were tasked with revamping a pitching staff that had the worst earned run average in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2015. Four years later, Jackson guided the Dukes to the conference’s best ERA and broke the program’s strikeout record.

“He was always looking out for the betterment of the player and trying to find ways to make them better, whether it be through mechanics or through technology,” Ikenberry said.

Shelton Perkins, a 2019 16th-round draft pick by the Orioles, worked with Jackson after transferring to James Madison for his redshirt sophomore season in 2018. Together, they perfected the right hander’s slider.

[Maryland baseball breaks ground on indoor practice facility]

They watched video of Perkins’ throwing motion and analyzed data. Jackson discovered Perkins’ hand placement was inconsistent, which limited the offering’s sweeping motion. The pair eventually got the pitch to an “elite level,” Perkins said.

“He’s really good at finding what you’re good at and not necessarily trying to make you a cookie-cutter pitcher,” he said.

Jackson was Perkins’ first call when Baltimore selected him in the 16th round. He was also Perkins’ first call in November when the Orioles cut him.

“He’s just a great guy to have in your corner,” Perkins said.

While Jackson worked with future professionals, Johnny Poss started a Division III program from scratch.

Wilson College became a co-ed university in 2013 after operating as a women’s college since its founding in 1869. Wilson added a baseball team in April 2017 and hired Poss to run it two months later.

Poss had a full year to recruit a roster before competing. It wasn’t yet a full-time position. He worked 40 hours a week as an accountant for a classic auto body shop.

He pitched a five-year plan to prospects for the newly born program: Have a winning record in year one, make the conference championship the next year then advance to the NCAA tournament in year three and onward.

“He will get the best players that he sees,” said Brandon Cook, who played for Poss at both St. Mary’s High School in Annapolis and Wilson. “He’ll sell them the university and will always try his best to get that person, and more than likely, they will pick that school because of Coach Poss.”

Poss’ five-year plan was almost executed perfectly. The Phoenix finished 21-13 and reached the postseason in his first season. Wilson then made the conference championship in years three, four and five — COVID-19 cut short year two.

Poss fostered tight bonds with his players, which contributed to the on-field success. He put the word “family” on the back of players’ helmets to emphasize the team’s community.

“He will say ‘I love you’ to his players because he sees them as a family,” Cook said.

[Explosive first inning powers Maryland baseball past Mount St. Mary’s, 14-3, in home opener]

Swope coveted Poss and Jackson because of their local ties. Jackson grew up in Glen Burnie and later attended Old Mill High School in Millerville. His first coaching job was with Archbishop Spalding in Severn.

“They’re both Maryland guys right there, and they want to be here, and it’s as simple as that,” Swope said. “They’re born and bred. They take a lot of pride in the state.”

Those ties serve as a recruiting tool for Maryland, which aims to prioritize local prospects. Poss and Jackson’s relationships with the area’s high schools help the Terps connect with those targets.

Swope called Poss a “relentless” recruiter, citing his time building Wilson into a perennial contender. Ikenberry used the same word to describe Jackson’s recruiting style.

“Jimmy’s from Maryland, I’m from Maryland, Matt’s from Maryland,” Poss said. “We really want to lock down the Maryland, DMV area as far as keeping the best players in a Terps uniform.”

Tuesday’s 14-3 win over Mount St. Mary’s was the trio’s first game coaching the Terps in their home state. Poss, who committed to Maryland out of high school but never played for the Terps, called it “an honor” to finally put on the jersey.

For Jackson, the emotions set in after Devin Russell’s eighth inning home run sent the Bob Smith Stadium lights into a frenzy. Jackson remembers being on the receiving end of those game-changing swings at James Madison.

Now, those lights flash for Jackson and Poss’ team, their hometown team.