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Manny DeJesus, a junior outfielder from Caguas, Puerto Rico, poses for a portrait outside of Bob Wren Stadium on April 1, 2015. 

Manny DeJesus a catalyst for Ohio offense

Manny DeJesus, a junior from Puerto Rico, brings a hot bat and cool vibes onto the field for Ohio.

Manny DeJesus has been busy.

From his transition to the United States, to his adoption of the English language, to his move into Ohio’s leadoff spot, DeJesus has had to work hard to reach the point in his life he’s at today.

But maybe that’s just how he makes it look so easy.

DeJesus, a junior centerfielder, has been a catalyst for Ohio’s offense, whose production is unrecognizable from last season’s team. During his first year with the Bobcats, DeJesus has compiled a remarkable line in his first 24 games played: a .323 batting average and a .412 on-base percentage, while recording at least one hit in 19 games.

His 26 runs scored and five doubles rank second on the team, and his batting average and on-base percentage rank third.

“We’re very fortunate to have him,” said Ohio coach Rob Smith. “He’s a tough out. He doesn’t try to do too much; he just stays inside of himself and sticks to his plan. He’s as good as we have as far as seeing pitches and making pitchers work to get him out.”

DeJesus is a native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, and became Ohio’s only Latin American-born player this past offseason, following Ohio’s worst season in program history. There is no school-sanctioned baseball where DeJesus grew up, so he played in miscellaneous youth leagues. He also occasionally ventured to the United States to play in tournaments.

“I’ve always wanted to play college ball in the U.S.,” DeJesus said. “I knew (Ohio) was a good program. They didn’t win a lot of games the year before, but I knew I was going to help this team win. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m just enjoying the moment.”

The centerfielder’s journey to Athens began with a bus trip back from a road game last season, when Smith and his staff were talking about the necessity of adding a capable outfielder to Ohio’s roster. They began looking through junior colleges for a possible fit. That’s when they ran across the roster of Wabash Valley Junior College in Illinois — where Smith recruited Bobcats’ reliever Spencer Sapp two years ago — and found a player who fit the bill.

DeJesus speaks quietly but fluently when discussing his transition, a quality made more impressive when considering he’s only been speaking English for about five years. That quiet, unassuming impression is an asset for the Bobcats, Smith said.

“He’s calming, very even-keel,” Smith said. “He doesn’t get overly-excited when things are going well, and he doesn’t get all that upset when things aren’t. He’s got a great calming presence to our team, and he’s just got a very steady approach to what he does.”

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What DeJesus does is play baseball, and he plays it at a level that his teammates have been quick to notice and respect.

“He’s one of the smoothest players that I’ve ever seen us have in center field,” said senior outfielder Tyler Wells. “Any ball that gets hit out there, even in the fall, he was tracking them down. You’d think you put a good swing on the ball, and he was everywhere. He’s just so smooth and has good arm strength and has good presence on the field.”

DeJesus began the season hitting second behind redshirt senior shortstop Garrett Black. DeJesus was moved to the top of the lineup in the team’s 11th game and has since settled in there, hitting .301 since his move to the leadoff role — a figure hampered by a 2-for-24 showing in Ohio’s first six Mid-American Conference games.

DeJesus isn’t the only Ohio player making strides toward improving Ohio’s offense in 2015. Ohio’s batting average ranks first in the MAC, and the 180 runs the team has scored in 26 games is not far from the 192 runs it tallied throughout its entire 51-game schedule last season.

Still, DeJesus’ value to the team cannot be understated. His keen base running ability has been essential to Ohio’s run-scoring efforts. With big bats such as Mitch Longo, Jake Madsen and Cody Gaertner crowding the middle of the Ohio’s batting order, DeJesus’ presence and speed on the base paths leads to ample scoring opportunities. His ability to get on base is a key cog in the Bobcats’ offensive operation.

 “We put in work this whole fall, this whole spring,” DeJesus said of his offensive approach. “It’s just … having a good approach at the plate and just being consistent. Control what I can control and just enjoy the game.”


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