Spotlight: Hammond’s Jae Roberts

ainelson@thestate.comMarch 26, 2013 

The horizon just got a bit broader for Jae Roberts. The USC baseball commitment is drawing the attention of major league scouts.

The horizon just got a bit broader for Jae Roberts.

Once upon a time, Roberts did not want to play baseball.

His parents encouraged him to keep with the sport, if only for the sake of well-roundedness, and by the end of his first high school season, Roberts was in love and excelling at it. As a sophomore, he was on the radar of dozens of college coaches.

This season, Roberts, a senior outfielder and right-handed pitcher for Hammond, is playing to an audience that includes professional scouts.

“It’s humbling, so humbling,” said Roberts, who has signed to play for South Carolina. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. It was a big surprise when I got the phone call that said a Braves scout was going to be out here.”

Roberts said, “It’s just great to know that the pro way is an option for me.”

“I never thought about it all before,” he said. “But people telling me what could happen has changed the way I thought about what was possible.”

Although Roberts said he is not likely to forego college, he said knowing that he could have a long career in baseball ahead of him is an added motivation.

“It’s extra excitement. There’s just something special about senior season that makes you want to give it all your heart and soul. Even more than usual,” he said.

Roberts is among seven seniors on the Skyhawks squad. His focus, like theirs, is making the most of their final season together.

He said he owes them his best effort.

“They’re great teammates, and I wouldn’t be the player I am without them,” Roberts said.

So, although Roberts is honored to have the pros considering him, his time on the field is not spent thinking of impressing them.

The pressure he feels, Roberts said, is to help his team to a SCISA state title.

Playing in front of pro scouts is not unlike playing in front of college recruiters, Roberts said.

“I just don’t acknowledge their presence; I know they are there, but I think of them as anybody else in the audience, and I just play,” Roberts said.

That approach is working well.

On March 19, with a scout from the Los Angeles Dodgers looking on, Roberts stepped in at pitcher in the fourth inning and posted three strikeouts. Then in the bottom of the sixth, he hit a 340-foot home run over the leftfield fence to drive in three runs and break a stalemate with Orangeburg Prep.

That performance might have boosted his stock among pro scouts but, more important to Roberts, it helped put another notch in the Skyhawks’ win column.

Hammond coach Ray Derrick said Roberts does not seem to have trouble remaining focused.

“He cares so much about the game of baseball, so that even though he hears about how good he is and all the possibilities, that is not what he focuses on,” Derrick said.

“He knows that he has some things to work on before he even goes to college. He has work to do.”

While he is working, Roberts has that new dream to aim towards.

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