PREP BASEBALL

Jesse Smith is Griffith's ultimate utility man

2013-04-11T20:15:00Z 2013-04-12T03:16:08Z Jesse Smith is Griffith's ultimate utility manHillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com

GRIFFITH | Jesse Smith is a baseball player's baseball player.

Ask him to take baseball out of his daily routine and talk about himself, and he simply can't do it.

If he's not playing baseball for Griffith, he's reading about it. If he's not coaching his cousins' youth baseball team, he's watching baseball on television.

Baseball is Smith's life. Period.

"He's as pure of a baseball player as I've ever had because he's just a baseball player, he's not flashy, he's not the biggest, but he's a baseball player," Griffith baseball coach Brian Jennings said. "That is so forgotten about in today's day and age of scouting and recruiting, he's just a baseball player. That's what I told colleges about him, he's not the biggest, doesn't run the best, but he's a baseball player, he understands the game mentally and he understands the game from a physical standpoint. He's a baseball player."

On the field, Smith doesn't have a position he won't or can't play. He's the Panthers' No. 1 pitcher, and in the new year of the Northwest Crossroads Conference Monday-Tuesday scheduling, that makes him the Monday pitcher. Then he'll play second base, unless Austin Brown makes it to the mound, then he's at third base. He was a shortstop as a freshman, plays first after a lengthy pitching outing, and ask him to catch and he won't say "no."

"I like it, because it's not boring," Smith said. "Being able to play multiple positions is more valuable to the team."

He's within striking distance of the school's games-played mark, and because he's made himself so utilitarian, he won't leave the field.

Smith is headed to South Suburban College after graduating from Griffith, hoping to earn his way into the rotation. His major? Sports marketing.

He's added three miles per hour to his velocity (the product of a summer's worth of leg workouts), increasing from 82 as a junior to 85 during the fall.

"Hard work just pays off, that's all," Smith said. "I like to compete, that's the No. 1 thing for me, I just like to compete."

"From the hard work standpoint it pays off for everybody else, because they see how hard he works," Jennings said. "He's running after practice, from what I hear he's trying to get extra cuts in the cages by hopping the fence on the weekends, but that's from what I hear. I don't know, but it's what I hear. He wants to get better, he's going to find a way to get better."

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