Jae Roberts couldn’t imagine playing anywhere other than Columbia.
The junior baseball standout at the Hammond School had offers to play at a number of prestigious college programs, but when it came time to make a decision, he realized it really wasn’t much of a decision at all.
He committed to South Carolina.
“I went there for a couple of games this year,” Roberts said. “I loved the environment. I could picture myself playing there in the next few years. I just loved it, the coaches and the facilities. [USC] being in my town isn’t bad either.”
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Roberts is a prodigious prospect in the Class of 2013. He’s an outfielder by trade, though he could move to one of the corner infield positions with the Gamecocks. As a senior at Hammond, he’ll likely play outfield, first base, third base and pitcher, showing the versatility in his game.
The 6-foot, 210-pounder played his freshman year at Lower Richland before moving to Hammond, where he hit above .500 with seven home runs and was named the SCISA Player of the Year last season.
“He’s a good enough athlete that he can play anywhere on the field,” Hammond coach Ray Derrick said. “He’s probably the best catcher we’ve got, but we’ve got to put somebody else behind the plate. He’s got great hands. I’m going to take a look at him in the infield. The coaches at Carolina want to see how he plays the corners, too.”
Roberts has shown the ability to hit for both power and average during his two-year prep career.
“He’s very patient at the plate,” Derrick said. “I’m probably going to have to get him a little more aggressive, because people are probably going to pitch around him a lot this year. He’s got a lot of bat speed. He can really swing it.”
Roberts gave a pretty simple explanation of his strengths.
“My game is basically power and speed,” he said.
“I think I’m better at the plate right now. I think I’m still learning about the game from the outfield and how to adjust [my position] based on the strikes to a hitter and how my pitcher is pitching to them. I need to get better in the outfield, so right now I’d say my hitting is better than my fielding.”
But it’s not as if his fielding is a weakness. Derrick believes that Roberts has the entire package.
“[USC coach Ray] Tanner likes him a lot, especially with the stick because he can rip it,” he said. “He knows that he’s a power guy. Obviously he’s committed to South Carolina, but if he keeps going how he’s going, he may be one of those draft guys.”