Sports

Tattnall's Smelter picks Georgia Tech for baseball career

DeAndre Smelter and Joey Hiller kept the decision quiet.

Smelter and his head baseball coach publicly said Georgia and Georgia Tech were in the mix when the Tattnall Square senior picked his college choice. The decision wouldn’t be revealed until a Tuesday morning news conference.

But Smelter gave an enormous tip when he walked into Tattnall’s gym lobby wearing a gold tie.

When asked if that was a hint, Hiller just smiled.

A few minutes later, Smelter pulled two Georgia Tech hats from underneath a table and signed a baseball scholarship with the Yellow Jackets.

“I’m glad it’s over, and I can just concentrate on playing and going after another state championship,” Smelter said.

Smelter picked Tech over Georgia on Tuesday, but he also likely picked baseball over football for good.

The two-time all-state safety already decided to give up football as a senior — he had football offers from Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Maryland and South Carolina among others — to concentrate on baseball. He was The Telegraph’s 2008 GISA Football Player of the Year.

“It was a real tough decision,” Smelter said. “It was tough to just leave all my teammates. I had to make the decision that was good for me. There has always been an itch (to play). ... When I was little, I said I wanted to be a baseball player. To be the best baseball player I can be, I needed to focus on baseball.”

Smelter has been on the radar of many baseball scouts since his breakout sophomore season.

He went 9-0 with a 1.06 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 53 innings pitched for the state champion Trojans. He also hit .347 with five home runs and 38 RBI and was named the Telegraph’s GISA Player of the Year.

As a junior, Smelter led the Trojans back to a state championship with a 6-4 record, a 2.33 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 50-1/3 innings and closed the final game of the state championship game. He hit .464 with eight home runs and 36 RBI.

Smelter, who was also named The Telegraph’s 2007-08 GISA Boys Basektball Player of the Year and the 2008 Telegraph Male Athlete of the Year, raised his national profile with a strong summer on the travel circuit.

He pitched two innings of shutout ball and struck out five in the East Coast Professional Showcase. He then pitched shutouts innings in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago and the Aflac All-America High School Classic in San Diego. He struck out all three batters he faced in San Diego, including Jackie Robinson National High School Player of the Year and Sports Illustrated coverboy Bryce Harper.

Smelter was a finalist for the 2009 Jackie Robinson National High School Player of the Year and is a preseason candidate for Gatorade National High School Player of the Year. He has been ranked as high as the fifth best prospect nationally.

Because of the strong summer, Smelter has positioned himself as a high-level draft pick, perhaps as high as the first round. Smelter said he hasn’t really gotten a read of where he could get selected in June’s MLB draft.

“No matter what happens (with the draft), I know I have a home at Georgia Tech,” Smelter said. “The worst-case scenario, if I got hurt or something else happened, is that I’ll have a degree from Georgia Tech. That’s a great worst-case scenario. You can do anything in life with a degree from Georgia Tech.”

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