Jaylen Smith is not just securing his future. He is also preserving the present.
Despite still being weeks away from the first day of his senior year, Copperas Cove’s standout pitcher is not waiting to declare his collegiate intentions, recently making a verbal commitment to play at San Jacinto.
Although Smith has plenty of time to wait on other offers, he is confident the decision is best for both now and beyond.
“This takes a lot of weight off my shoulders,” Smith said. “I can just go out, play, enjoy the rest of my time in high school and start getting ready for the years after that’s over.”
The left-hander is coming off a strong junior campaign, striking out 66 batters en route to a 4-3 record on the mound and leading the Bulldawgs in innings pitched (57.1) and starts (10).
With high expectations for his final year at Copperas Cove, Bulldawgs head coach Dusty Brittain agrees the early commitment allows Smith to play freely, but perhaps more importantly, it prevents the opposite from occurring.
“It is going to take so much pressure off of him,” Brittain said, “and he won’t have that doubt lingering over his head anymore. He knows this is under his belt, and he can just go out, relax, have fun and be an athlete.
“I’ve seen it go the other way and had guys in the past who didn’t commit for whatever reason, and I
could just tell they were pressing. They just had too much on their mind.”
Smith will be playing for one of the most decorated junior college programsin the state upon enrolling at San Jacinto.
The Gators won five consecutive national championships from 1985 through 1990 and have been the runner-up for the title nine times, including 2016. In total, they have made 24 appearances in the Junior College World Series.
Additionally, a dozen players have been selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft in the last four years, and some of its alumni include major league pitchers Roger Clemens, Andy Pettit, Matt Albers, David Rollins, Sean Nolin and Daniel Stumpf.
“It’s pretty cool to be part ofthis program,” Smith said. “I’ve been watching videos, and they have a really good team.”
But Smith has other commitments before joining the Gators.
Along with serving as a pitcher for the Bulldawgs, he is also the football team’s starting quarterback after splitting time with Caine Garner, who is now playing at Mary Hardin-Baylor, last season.
With his college career exclusively dedicated to baseball, the upcoming campaign will be Smith’s final time to play the sport of football, and reaching the choice was not easy.
“I always wanted to play both sports at college,” he said, “but I’ve seen that my future is in baseball, so I had to make that decision.
“But I’m going to play this season of football like I always have. I’m going to finish it out with my team, go as far as we can go and just have fun playing.”
Once the Bulldawgs complete their run in the fall, however, Smith will turn his complete attention toward enjoying baseball and improving at it with the hopes of reaching the big leagues like so many San Jacinto players before him.
“If I can get my speed up,” Smith said, “I might be able to get drafted after my first year there.
“That’s the goal, and it’s a nice school to make that happen.”