Tournaments | Story | 7/7/2015

Growing up with the game

Chris Garcia        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – The Kentucky Baseball Club’s Prime team, out of Nicholasville, Ky., have done well for themselves at this year’s 17u WWBA National Championship. Their pool, Pool H, is one of the more competitive pools in the entire tournament, and going into this tournament KBC Prime knew it would a close race to decide the eventual pool winners.

Entering Tuesday's play they had posted a 3-1 record, but so had two other teams, including the dangerous 643 DP Cougars who have been consistently successful in PG events this summer. KBC isn’t sweating it, as all they can do is continue to win games and let the other teams do what they will.

Their matchup on Tuesday afternoon at LakePoint against the NCBA Spikes was a close one, but KBC Prime showed resiliency and ended up with a 4-2 win. They got down early due to a two-run home run in the third inning, but their starter, Aiden Elias, bore down after that and tossed a gem. Elias went the full seven innings, striking out six and allowing just the two runs on four hits and a walk. After the home run in the third the Spikes would fail to even put a runner in scoring position the rest of the way.

At that point it was up to the bats of KBC to bail them out, and that they did. Timely hitting was the story of this game, and they were able to produce some clutch offense late in the game that got them the win, including a decisive three-run fifth inning.

KBC Prime Head Coach Jordan Tarrence was impressed with the way his boys stepped up to win Tuesday's game.

We had timely hitting today, and that’s something that we were missing,” Coach Tarrence said after the game as his club moved to 4-1. “We had good swings early in the count, and made sure we were tough with two on us, and just made sure we got on base. Once they were on, we drove ‘em in, and did a nice job of doing that.”

Many players contributed to those two important innings of offense, one of them being star outfielder Jaren Shelby, who went 1-for-3 with a stolen base and a run scored. Jaren has all of the tools that any coach could ask for, flashing a fantastic 60-yard dash time of 6.80 seconds and an incredible arm that recorded 95 mph velocity from the outfield at last month's PG National Showcase.

Not only does Jaren have the talent, but he also has the attitude. This is a kid that loves the game of baseball, and he has pep in his step every single time he steps on the field.

Maybe part of the reason that he is so passionate about baseball has to do with the fact that he has been around the highest level of baseball his entire life. Jaren’s father, John Shelby, is an outfield and assistant hitting coach for the Milwaukee Brewers, and played 11 years in the big leagues. John Shelby spread out his playing career with three different clubs, including the Baltimore Orioles from 1981-87, the L.A. Dodgers from 1987-90, and the Detroit Tigers from 1990-’91. He had .239 career batting average with 70 home runs and 313 RBI in 1,036 games.

Jaren feels that growing up around that kind of baseball was an awesome experience, and having a father that had that type of knowledge really gave him an advantage.

It’s a huge advantage being around the game like that,” Jaren Shelby said of his background. “Growing up in that family, you just had to love baseball, and if you did, there was always a resource. There’s just so much knowledge that comes with being surrounded by the game like that, so you just have to take it in and put it together.”

Jaren even had the fortunate opportunity to travel with his Dad and be around the dugout and players when he was growing up. Being around that atmosphere is every young ballplayers dream, and Jaren was able to experience it firsthand.

We always traveled with him when he was with Dodgers, Pirates, and the Orioles,” Shelby added. “We were catching major league fly balls when they were shagging at, like, six-years-old. It was just fun to be in the club house and learn the major league mentality.”

When Jaren Shelby says “we” he's referring to his five siblings, three of which have baseball backgrounds of their own. His oldest brother, John T. III, is an area scout with the Brewers in Florida, another brother, Jeremy, played in the Orioles organization in 2010, and yet another brother, JaVon, is coming off of a successful sophomore season playing for the Kentucky Wildcats.

As a result, Jaren certainly has that Major League mentality down, as he is a kind of player with a motor that never stops running. He gives 100 percent effort all the time, and that’s really the only way that he knows how to play the game.

I feel like I’m always going to give 100 percent, and I can accredit that to football,” Shelby said. “I always have that extra fire, and I feel like I can put it together. Talent can take you one way, but character is going to get where you need to be, and I feel like I have that. I just always believe I can get the job done.”

Coach Tarrence has been coaching up Jaren since he joined KBC back when he was 13, and he can’t say enough about how much this young man contributes to the team.

He’s a great team guy,” Tarrence said of his star player. “He’s always smiling and pumping up his teammates. As a player, he’s fast, can hit for power, is smart on the field and has a good arm. Anything that you need done on the baseball field, he can do for you.”

Jaren is in the midst of the recruiting process, and is taking his decision as to where he wants to play one day at a time. He’s received multiple offers, including an offer from University of Kentucky, where his older brother, JaVon, plays ball at. Being from Lexington, and given the family ties, UK would be a great fit for Jaren, but he wants to play the field and really give other schools a good hard look.

UK is up there for me, and I could see myself there,” Shelby said. “I just want to give it a little more time. Florida was talking to me, and I really like them. UF and UK are the main schools I’m looking at.”

The offers will be there, but right now, Jaren is focused on simply improving his baseball skills in any way possible. Jaren has been working tirelessly to up his game, and it really showed at this year’s PG National Showcase. Coming into the showcase, Jaren wasn’t ranked extremely low, but by the end of it, he made a jump in the rankings that put him in the top 25 of all players in the 2016 class.

The showcase was great. I’ve always wanted to be around players like that; it’s great being around players who have the same focus and same goal,” Shelby added. “The talent there was crazy too. I felt kind of at home, so I just had to play my game, keep to myself, and just ball out.”

As noted, KBC Prime is now 4-1 in pool play with one more game to go, but they're going to need some help, as they've tied with two other teams in their pool – the 643 DP Cougars Pralgo and the Austin Banditos – and they have given up the most runs of the three.

Win or lose, Jaren will look to finish this tournament out strong and he hopes that his KBC Prime squad can continue to play solid baseball as pool plays comes to an end. The sky is the limit for Shelby, and with a great supporting cast, a good head on his shoulders and amazing talent, he should go far.

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