EMERSON, Ga. – The Marlins Scout Team is probably the most international teams at this week’s WWBA 17u National Championship at Perfect Game Park South at LakePoint. The players that grace the roster come from all parts of the United States, with a few players from Panama, Venezuela, and Mexico. Two players who particularly stand out, though, and they both happen to come from small Mississippi towns.
DeMarcus Evans and J’Mar Smith are familiar foes when they face off on a yearly basis on the high school baseball diamond, but for now they come together to win baseball games and attract a large number of college coaches and scouts.
“He’s a nice guy,” said Smith. “We play against each other every year, so right now I get a chance to be friends with him, but when the season comes it’s a different story.”
Evans, from the small town of Petal with a population just under 11,000, has emerged onto the national baseball scene recently with a stellar showing at the invite-only Perfect Game National Showcase. There he showed an electric 92 mph (miles per hour) fastball with impressive revolutions per minute.
Although he has just recently found himself among the conversation at the national level, his Marlins Scout Team head coach, James Byers, knew what kind of talent Evans was and made a huge push to get Evans seen at the National Showcase last month in Fort Myers, Fla.
“The thing people don’t realize about DeMarcus being a PO (pitcher-only) is every game he’s getting the guys going, staying positive, and wants to win more than anything,” said Byers. “He’s not fun to be around for a little bit after we lose, but he’s always positive, he’s funny, everybody likes him. I think, by the end of the year, he’s gonna be hitting 95 mph. He wants it; he wants it bad. He wants to pitch every single game.”
Perfect Game scout Jheremy Brown noted Evans’ immediate impression at the National Showcase, which has landed Evans at No. 93 in the 2015 high school class. Brown found Evans just as impressive last week at a showing during the WWBA 18u National Championship:
Standing at 6-foot-4, 245-pounds, Evans is athletic for his size, which helps him repeat his mechanics on the mound. His arm action is very loose and easy and shows the ability to work downhill on a consistent basis... it’s easy to envision the 89-92 mph, topping 93 velocity that he showed this week climbing into the mid-90s next June.
Evans came out dealing on Friday to kick off the WWBA 17u National Championship with a win over Coastal Prospects 17u Nationals. He threw five impressive innings, giving up just one earned run off of one hit and one walk, while collecting 11 strikeouts.
“He shoved,” Byers said. “He’s got good stuff. He’s still learning how to pitch and use his stuff properly, but as far as tools he can be a really good one.”
Evans started the game off with fireworks in his Fourth of July outing, striking out the first five batters he faced and then coming back to strike out the side in a row in the third inning.
The combination of the arm of Evans and the big power bat of Smith can be enough for this already-talented club to win a lot of ballgames. After their win Monday afternoon, the club sits at 3-1 in their pool.
Smith has been thrown into the national spotlight for a completely different reason: his performance on the gridiron. In fact, his father, Kenny Smith spent seven seasons in the NFL after playing his college ball at the University of Alabama. Football runs in the bloodlines.
J’Mar Smith has dazzled college coaches with his elusiveness and impressive arm at the quarterback position and is being heavily recruited as a football player. The only problem, and a good problem to have, is scouts and college coaches are discovering his tools and athleticism on the diamond as well.
“I’ve been playing football for a while and my dad played football, so it has a part of me,” said Smith. “I’m just gonna keep playing both until I figure out which one I like the best. I’m in between both sports. I’m having fun with baseball right now getting the opportunity to play with this team and play in front of a lot of people.”
Smith has received offers to play football from Mississippi State, the University of Memphis, and Louisiana Tech, with that list expected to keep expanding. He’s been talking to Louisiana-Lafayette and the University of Tennessee as well as said he has already spoken to Mississippi State about being a two-sport athlete if he chooses to attend.
“He is a special, special athlete and he’s just figuring it out,” Byers said. “If this guy played baseball year-round he would easily be special. He is gonna be a very special baseball player. We’ve got a great group of guys like him that’ll do anything, play anywhere.”
Being a two-sport star can be challenging, but some do make it work at the next level. Guys like Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson, and Jameis Winston, who was the most recent Heisman Trophy winner and a member of the Florida State baseball team, have made a name for themselves in both sports.
“You have to keep working, fight hard, understand what sport you’re in at that time and adjust to that sport,” said Smith. “You just condition the best you can for each sport and work hard and do the best you can in both sports. I’m active in both sports so I never fall off with whatever season I’m in.”
Smith impressed Perfect Game scout Jheremy Brown enough for a write-up in the 18u WWBA scouting notes, which read:
A strongly built 6-foot-2, 205-pound third baseman, Smith shows plus power in his swing when he is able to get him arms extended and drive a pitch. The hardest hit of the tournament at the East Cobb Complex came off Smith’s bat, as he was able to extend on and square up an upper-80s fastball, sending it back up the middle at 104 mph. The game prior, Smith again showed off the bat speed/power combo, driving an 87 mph fastball on the outer half from a left-handed pitcher about 390 feet over the left-center field fence.
Smith is a key cog to the winning formula the Marlins Scout Team has fielded for this tournament. He had fellow Mississippi hurler Evans have garnered much-deserved attention from the scouts in attendance.
“Since we’ve put them together, guys like J’Mar have stepped up,” Byers said. “They came in and we haven’t skipped a beat. These guys are fast friends. They’ve bonded pretty quick, considering they’re coming from all kinds of different areas and backgrounds.”
Byers, who has put together teams that have performed well in past Perfect Game tournaments, was asked to put together this Marlins Scout Team. With great assistance from former MLB player Carl Nichols, as well as various relationships established around the country, the Marlins Scout Team was formed.
After seeing the arm of Evans and the athletic build and powerful swing of Smith, it’s easy to say Byers and Nichols have formed a strong team full of untapped talent that scouts have been closely following throughout the team’s two weeks here.