Baseball freshmen ahead of the curve in preparing for instant impact

Jack Leggett: 'I’m seeing some of those guys pushing some of the older guys'

Baseball - Chris Okey

Photo by Mark Crammer

Baseball - Chris Okey

Baseball America recently ranked Clemson’s freshman class for 2013 as the 16th best incoming group in the nation, and the 3rd best in the ACC.

The nine-man class - which features a pair of Major League draft picks in infielder Eli White, and catcher Chris Okey – is already enrolled, and has participated in the fall training season. That early look at a class that’s particularly strong on multifaceted infielders has made a positive impression on Coach Jack Leggett, who said that some of his veteran players are already feeling the heat.

“I’m seeing some of those guys pushing some of the older guys,” said Leggett. “We have some really strong infield kids, and I think they’re making some significant progress real quickly. They’re eager and hungry and have good attitudes, and they’re looking to contribute in any way that they possibly can. I’ve seen some very good things, so far, out of those kids.”

In Okey - a native of Mount Dora, FL, who was a 31st-round draft-pick by the San Diego Padres - Leggett has added a player who will join junior Garrett Boulware to give the Tigers some much-needed depth behind the plate.

“Chris Okey is obviously a kid who was highly-recruited,” said Leggett. “We needed him coming into our program, because we didn’t have a lot of catching-depth. Garrett Boulware had a great year for us last year, and he’s a great leader for us. He’s a tough offensive player and a tough defensive player. Chris is a really good player, too, behind the plate, and offensively he’s very aggressive.

“So the combination of those two guys, I think, is going to really serve us well. They’re both working together well, and they get along great together, and that’s how it has to be. I’m excited about both of them.”

Easley’s Eli White (a Wren High School product) was selected in the 26th-round of the draft by the Cincinnati Reds, and is the most heralded of the versatile freshman infielders.

“Eli White has really come along in the fall.” said Leggett. “He’s gotten stronger, and has great versatility. He can play both second and short. Weston Wilson (High Point, NC) is also one of those versatile guys who can play second and short and third. He’s gotten better and better. Glenn Batson (Greenville, SC) has come along as a defensive player at third-base, and also first-base, and offensively I see some good things in the future out of him.”

Reed Rohlman (Moore, SC) is the lone outfielder in the class, and has been slowed by an injury during the fall workouts.

“Reed Rohlman has been injured a little bit during the fall,” said Leggett. “His wrist has been bothering him from a high school injury, so I really haven’t had a chance to see him as much as I would like to out there. But he’s another guy that has a chance to be a good player, as well.”

With an even balance between lefthanders and right-handers, the freshman class has also bolstered the Tigers’ pitching arsenal.

“We have some really good, young pitchers on the team,” said Leggett. “Alex Bostic (Matthews, NC), we haven’t really seen yet, because he’s coming off an arm-injury out of high school. But he’s going to be really good for us as a left-handed pitcher before it’s all over. Hunter Hill (Little Mountain, SC) is another freshman lefthander who has a chance to get better and better.

“Drew Moyer (Gilbert, SC) and Tucker Burgess (Liberty, SC, and Easley High) are both right-handed pitchers and are two other guys who are freshmen that I think are going to make a good impact for us at some point.”

While advocating patience, as befits any group of first-year players, Leggett also believes that this class is ahead of the curve in terms of being ready to contribute something of substance.

“It’s a good freshman class, and these kids are going to make their mark here before it’s all over,” he said. “They just have to be patient, and keep on working and stay positive, because I can see them having an impact maybe even earlier than I might have first anticipated.”

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