Smith pursues dream despite pandemic
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Jackson Smith smiles after signing his letter of intent to play for Post Grad Sports Baseball.
Jackson Smith smiles after signing his letter of intent to play for Post Grad Sports Baseball.

(Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a new series that takes a look at how recent graduates’ (class of 2020) lives were turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

There's no bigger heartbreak than having your dreams snatched from you before you have a chance to achieve them.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and spring sports were canceled, athletes' hearts across the Gunnison Valley were crushed, as the hard work they put into training for the spring season was thrown out the window.

While underclassmen and juniors will have another opportunity next spring to compete, seniors — especially recent Gunnison High School graduate Jackson Smith, needed the spring season to prove he was deserving of a scholarship.

“When they finally made the decision to cancel the season, I was glad. It was better than thinking next week we are starting or the week after,” said Smith. “I didn’t have any offers coming into this season, and when the pandemic happened I thought to myself, ‘Well this kind of ruined my future for baseball.’ No colleges were going to be able to come watch me play, so I was really down and just gave up on it. I started thinking that I have to find something that is a career now, probably not go to college since baseball wasn’t going to work out.”

Smith had five coaches that were planning to come watch him play during the season, on top of having two visits scheduled at two community colleges.

Additionally, Smith had five schools interested in him, however they wanted him to play as a walk-on, since they had no scholarships available.

With Jackson thinking his chance of playing baseball was over, he started sleeping in more and staying up later — until he got an email while he was on a trip.

“(Post Grad Sports Baseball) emailed me first saying they needed one more position player in each spot. Since I was on a trip, I didn't want to get back to them right away because I didn't have any of my film on me,” said Smith. “So I waited a week and thought the spots might have filled up, I emailed the coach back and we set up a call and I had great vibes from the start. He seemed like a really good guy, who was smart and it also seemed like it was a good program.”

Post Grad Sports Baseball in Scottsdale, Ariz. is a ninemonth baseball program, that allows unsigned high school seniors athletes to take a gap year — focusing on training and developing — while keeping their eligibility and getting them opportunities to earn a scholarship to a National Collegiate Athletic Association baseball program. At the moment Smith doesn’t know how many games he’ll play during the ninemonth program, as the head coach is waiting to see if local junior colleges will be having fall sports.

“This program gives me more opportunities to get more scholarships. So hopefully after this nine-month program I have a list of schools that are interested in giving me a scholarship for baseball,” said Smith. “In order to stay eligible you have to do some schooling so I'm going to go to a small community college near by to get some of my general eds out the way.”

While Smith is excited to get the opportunity to continue to play baseball, he is less excited for the hot weather that Scottsdale has to offer.

“The last couple of days I have been complaining about the 80 degree weather here, I'm going to be really complaining in a couple of months,” said Smith.

Smith’s first day will be on Saturday, Aug. 15. The average temperature in Scottsdale in the month of August is 104 degrees. Which is also the average temperature it has been in Scottsdale this week.

“I am so proud of his intensity and drive to play baseball instead of just giving up, especially during this time of uncertainty. He has always been a go getter and I know that will help him in Arizona,” said Jamee, mother of Jackson. “I am especially happy of his choice for Arizona over Nebraska.”

 

(Brandon Warr can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or brandon@gunnisontimes.com.)