By Phil Anastasia
Jarret DeHart knows baseball.
The Shawnee outfielder knows patience is a big part of the game. He knows a disciplined approach at the plate is a key to success.
He knows it's a mistake to rush, to force things. He knows restraint was the reason he walked 31 times last season.
DeHart also is a senior. He's wearing a Shawnee uniform for the last time. He is playing with a lot of his buddies for the last time.
So he's in a hurry, too.
"It seems like just yesterday we all were freshmen," DeHart said the other day at a Shawnee practice. "It's just flown by. Now we're all seniors and we want to do as well as we can in our last season."
DeHart has been one of the most highly touted players in South Jersey for much of his career. He missed all but one game of his sophomore season at Shawnee with a wrist injury, but that summer, he committed to attend Louisiana State in a baseball scholarship.
"Growing up I just loved LSU baseball," DeHart said. "They actually were one of the last teams to offer, but once they did it pretty much was a no-brainer for me."
DeHart believes his status as an LSU recruit has created a bit of a "bulls-eye" on his back. One result has been a shortage of fastballs that cross the plate when he's at bat.
"Jarret is such a smart baseball player," Shawnee coach Brian Anderson said. "He's a student of the game. He lives, breaths and eats baseball."
Given his LSU scholarship, DeHart could have distanced himself from his Shawnee teammates. That happens sometimes with high school athletes who commit to big-time college programs.
But Anderson said the opposite is true.
"Jarret is fortunate to have been coached by a lot of good baseball people coming up," Anderson said. "But he always wants to share what he knows about the game. He has such an enthusiasm about this program and playing with his teammates. That's why he was picked by his teammates as a captain."
A smooth left-handed swinger, DeHart batted .368 last season with five doubles, three homers and 21 stolen bases. Add in those 31 walks, and DeHart was a constant presence on the basepaths.
Stung by injuries, Shawnee struggled to a 10-12 record last season. The Renegades plan to bounce back this season, and they will have ample opportunity to show they belong among South Jersey's elite teams as new member of the loaded Olympic Conference American Division.
"We have high expecations," DeHart said. "We have a lot of seniors, guys who have been playing together for a long time. We have great team chemistry. We can't want to see what we can do this season."
Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.