College : : Recruiting
Friday, November 20, 2009

Smelter is crown jewel of Georgia Tech's big class

Jim Ecker        
Georgia Tech Coach Danny Hall knew he had a solid recruiting class as the national signing date approached earlier this month. Then DeAndre Smelter called the day before the signing period began and it got much better.

Smelter, an Aflac All-American from Macon, Ga., is ranked No.5 in the country in the Class of 2010 by Perfect Game USA, a terrific athlete who turned down football scholarships (including one from Georgia Tech, ironically) in order to pursue a baseball career. He's got a 95 mph fastball, a slider that's been clocked at 87 and a nasty splitter, among other attributes. And don't challenge him to a race in the 60-yard dash.

"He's in a class by himself," said Hall.

Smelter called Georgia Tech on Tuesday, Nov. 10 to accept a baseball scholarship. The fall signing period began the next day.

"It was a great day. He's an outstanding talent," said Hall. "And not only is he an outstanding talent in baseball, he's a great athlete and he's a great kid. I felt like we got one of the most sought-after guys in the country to commit to stay home and play here at Tech."

Hall signed 18 players, the most he's ever collected in 16 years at Georgia Tech. He'll have six seniors on the team in 2010 and nine juniors who will be draft-eligible, so there could be numerous holes to fill in 2011 when his new recruits are freshmen.

"We felt like we needed to bring in a large class, but 18 is the most we've ever signed," he said. "How many we end up with, that kind of remains to be seen. We hope we get all 18 of them, but usually it doesn't work out that way."

Smelter, 6-4, 205, could be a high first-round pick in the 2010 major league draft, based on current projections, and Hall knows his prized recruit might go straight to pro baseball.

"I think he's very interested in it," said Hall. "Obviously if he's a first rounder and somebody is going to give him $1 million or more, then I would say you'd have to look heavily at pro baseball. But I do feel very strongly that the guys that go to college and develop in college end up being prepared for pro baseball and usually end up making it bigger than they would have had they signed out of high school. And they usually end up playing for a little longer and making a little more money. But if he's a first rounder, then I'd give him my blessing to go ahead and sign, that's for sure."

Chevez Clarke, another Aflac All-American, also signed with Georgia Tech. Clarke, an outfielder, is another terrific athlete who is ranked No.17 in the Class of 2010 by Perfect Game USA.

All told, Hall signed eight players who are ranked in the top-200. The others are Mott Hyde, an infielder from Resaca, Ga.; Daniel Palka, a first baseman/outfielder/pitcher from Lyman, S.C.; Alex Lavisky, a catcher from Cleveland, Ohio; Chris Triplett, an infielder from Fayetteville, Ga.; Chase Butler, a third baseman from Rome, Ga.; and Matthew Grimes, a pitcher from Hoschton, Ga.

The Rambling Wreck also signed PG ranked players in Alex Cruz, an infielder from Woodstock, Ga.; Jonathan Roberts, a pitcher from Fayetteville, Ga.; Zane Evans, a catcher/pitcher from Roswell, Ga.; Kyle Wren, an outfielder from Peachtree City, Ga.; Connor Kendrick, a pitcher from Sharpsburg, Ga.; Devin Stanton, a pitcher from Lilburn, Ga.; Dusty Isaacs, a pitcher from Lebanon, Ohio; Paul Kronenfeld, an outfielder from Greensboro, N.C.; Brad Markey, an infielder from Bel Air, Md.; and Will West, a pitcher from Tallahassee, Fla.

Hall has called this "one of the best classes" he's had at Georgia Tech, but he's not ready to call it the best ever.

"We've had some great classes, so that's the only thing that makes me hesitate in saying it is the best. Time will probably tell on that," said Hall, who has a 690-313 record at Georgia Tech with three trips to the College World Series. "Just on paper, it's definitely in the top-3, for sure. With as many guys as we have, it could be the best ever."

Georgia Tech had an outstanding class in 1998 when Mark Teixeira and several other future major leaguers enrolled in school. Teixeira, now starring for the Yankees, pledged $500,000 to the Georgia Tech baseball program last February for scholarships.

Twelve of the 18 players who signed with Tech this month are from Georgia, one of the richest states for baseball talent in the country. Hall said the level of talent in Georgia has grown in recent years for several reasons: The population growth around Atlanta, a greater emphasis on high school baseball and top-notch high school facilities, the success of the East Cobb program in Marietta, Ga., and the popularity of Perfect Game events in Cobb County each summer.

"It has placed a major emphasis on baseball in Georgia," he said. "We have a good advantage, in that there are very good baseball players in our state. And we get to see a lot of guys in the country come through here all summer long, playing in the Perfect Game events."

Perfect Game President Jerry Ford said, “We really like the coaches at Georgia Tech, they attend all of our big events and they have a great eye for talent. They even signed a kid from our home state of Iowa a couple years ago. Like some of the nation’s other top programs, their staff is made up of high quality people who can recruit and develop young talent, like Teixeira, Varitek and Wieters, who will end up playing in the Big Leagues."
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