Jesse James isn’t necessarily a physical marvel, said his high school baseball coach, but his mastery of assorted skills will make him valuable at the collegiate level.
The East Carter senior signed last week with Berea College, which Raiders coach Jeremiah Shearer said will value James because of his ability to fill multiple niches.
“He’s a good athlete, got a strong arm, hits for high average,” Shearer said. ”He’s pretty well-rounded, does everything pretty well. Nothing just jumps out at you, but he’s a versatile kid who can play different positions.”
James is East Carter’s everyday center fielder, but he also has caught and played shortstop this season, Shearer said.
“That’s always a good commodity to have,” the coach said.
Speaking for himself, the senior says his work ethic has helped him reach this point.
“I just always push myself to get to the next level,” James said, “and I’ll push myself in college and try to get even better.”
His coach concurred.
“Jesse’s one of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever coached,” Shearer said. “He puts in lots of time on his own, which is what it takes nowadays. He’s up there constantly working out. Just one of those kids who can’t get enough of it.”
James said the Mountaineers’ coaches’ level of involvement and investment in the program made it attractive to him. The school itself is also idyllic in his view.
“It was just kind of a beautiful campus, with trees and everything,” he said. “It just felt like home.”
Shearer said James is also getting better at embracing a leadership role.
“It’s something he’s kind of grown into,” Shearer said. “He’s not a real outspoken kid, but he plays hard, leads by example, (has) good body language, carries himself well, and the kids see how hard he works and follow his lead.”
James called his goal in that realm for this season “to improve, to help my team improve, to help guide others to get to the next level.”
James has been part of the Raiders’ string of six straight 62nd District tournament titles and was named to the all-district tournament team last season. He was also an All-Area honorable mention selection and played in the summer for the Ashland Post 76 American Legion team, which won its district and reached the state tournament.
The Mountaineers stood 15-12 entering their scheduled game Wednesday versus Pikeville. They compete in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in the NAIA.
Continuing with the theme of flexibility and versatility, Shearer said that is what gives James the opportunity to effect an impact at the college level.
“Berea’s coaches really liked his versatility, and they weren’t sure exactly how they were gonna utilize him, but they liked the fact they had different options with him and could fill some different needs for them,” Shearer said. “I think he’ll fit in well at Berea. He’s a good kid, comes from a good family and I think Berea’s a really good fit for him.”
James said he’s considering working toward becoming an athletic trainer and minoring in business.
ZACK KLEMME can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.