WEST POINT — Reiley Tate doesn’t remember exactly when the work started.
Tate was 3 or 4 years old when his father, Tim, introduced him to the game of baseball. It didn’t take long for Reiley to get hooked. In time, groundball sessions in the backyard or on a baseball field with his father grew longer and longer, sometimes pushing an hour or two. You get the sense Reiley could have kept going, too, because he said his father was the one who tired out.
The hard work Tate put in at a young age was realized Tuesday when he signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba.
Tate said he liked EMCC coach Chris Rose, the campus, and its proximity to home. He said the recruiting process was a “grind” and a lot of work,” but he said he was happy with his decision after sorting through several offers.
“I wanted to go play college baseball, but I didn’t think I could do it,” said Tate, who came to Mississippi by way of Tennessee from Maryland.
When asked why he doubted his ability to play at the next level, Tate said, “Size.”
That’s why the 5-foor-10, 145-pound Tate, who also plays on the school’s boys basketball and football teams, said there are a lot of cheeseburgers and shakes in his future. He said he has tried to put on weight earlier in his career but has had trouble keeping the pounds on.
Last season, Tate hit .450 with 15 doubles, three triples, three home runs, and 25 RBIs. He stole 41 bases out of the leadoff spot.
“Speed kills,” Tate said. “Everybody likes someone who can run.”
Tate also was 2-1 with a 1.80 earned run average and four saves. He projects as a middle infielder in college.
Oak Hill Academy baseball coach Mitch Bohon, who played baseball at EMCC, believes junior college baseball is the ideal place for Tate to go to mature and to put on 15-20 pounds. He feels Tate has unlimited potential thanks to his knowledge and love for the game and his defensive skills.
“Defensively, he is the best high school player I have seen,” Bohon said. “He is just special.”
Tate said the work he did with his father helped him develop “soft hands” as well as good hand-eye coordination and footwork. All three are integral components of being a lockdown shortstop pitchers love.
“I am able to get it in and out quick to get the guy out,” Tate said.
Tate started his first season at Oak Hill Academy at second base, but Bohon said the Raiders eventually found things worked better with Tate at shortstop at Ken “Buddy” Dill at second base. This season, Tate figures to anchor the infield defense at shortstop and to see time on the mound, most likely as a closer.
At the next level, Bohon feels Tate has the potential to be a Division I player if he adds weight.
“The sky is the limit with him because defensively how good he is,” Bohon said. “Defensively, he is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of kid. He is that good. God gave him abilities to play defense. If the other parts of the game come along, he could be a kid you watch every day.”
Tate said he and his father still work out together on the school baseball field to help him try to realize that goal. He smiled when he remembered all of the times and if he felt he had tired out his father yet.
“He has helped me through a lot,” Tate said.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.