HARTSELLE — Wearing a new South Carolina baseball cap, Jackson Smith glanced down and penned his name on the appropriate line.
Signed. Dated. Complete.
For Smith, this day couldn’t have arrived soon enough. Need confirmation? Look no further than the never-ending smile across his face.
Smith joined an elite group Monday afternoon, signing a National Letter of Intent with South Carolina’s baseball program. The Gamecocks have won two national titles since 2010 and have made three straight appearances in the College World Series final.
Smith was one of three Hartselle baseball players who made their commitments official Monday. Center fielder Colton Ord signed a National Letter of Intent with South Alabama, while catcher Chris Brown signed with UAH.
“Today, my dreams came true,” said Smith, a 6-foot right-handed pitcher. “South Carolina has one of the best baseball programs in the country, and I can’t wait to get up there and be a part of what they’re doing.
“Getting this out of the way, it’s sort of relieving.”
Excuse Smith for letting out a sigh of relief. Plagued by injuries, his high school baseball career has been an emotional roller coaster ride.
Smith missed almost all of his junior season because of a broken bone in his throwing hand. He returned in time for the postseason, and followed with a strong offseason while playing for the prestigious East Cobb Braves — helping the travel baseball organization win multiple championships.
But in early October, injury struck again when Smith suffered a ligament tear in his knee that required corrective surgery. He isn’t expected to return to the baseball field until midway through the season.
“My knee is feeling pretty good,” Smith said. “I can’t wait to get back out there and get back to the work. I know that I’ll come back strong.”
Like Smith, Ord spent most of his summer playing with a Georgia-based travel baseball team. The speedy outfielder, who can hit from both sides of the plate, gave South Alabama a commitment in late July.
Ord, an all-state outfielder, was The Daily’s Class 4A-6A baseball player of the year as a junior last season. He finished with a .305 batting average with 22 RBIs and 24 stolen bases. As a pitcher, Ord had a 6-1 record with a 2.02 ERA.
Brown, a switch-hitting catcher, finished with a .360 batting average with four homers and 51 RBIs. He hit home runs from both sides of the plate.
A large group of friends and family were present in the Hartselle High cafeteria snapping photos as the trio put their college plans into writing.
“This is going to be a perfect fit for me,” Ord said. “This whole thing, it’s all very exciting. Just being in here, doing this today, it has me ready for baseball season.”
With a large senior class, and almost every starter back from a team that advanced to the Class 5A state semifinals last season, Hartselle appears poised to contend for the program’s eighth state title.
And there should be several Tigers filling college rosters in 2013.
Hartselle coach William Booth said the Tigers likely will have a few other players sign with college baseball programs before the end of the season.
“I think we will have a few more,” Booth said. “But days like these, when you have three sign scholarships, that’s always a big deal. It’s a big deal for these guys, for their families and our program.”
|High School Sports||@DecaturPreps|