ARDMORE — Sun shining at his back, and the sound of baseballs popping leather in the background, Cody Reed was in his element.
Home at the ballpark.
For the Ardmore High junior, a large chunk of his childhood has centered on baseball. America’s pastime is his love. It’s his passion.
There’s a reason why:
Reed is pretty good at the game. Actually, really good.
So good, some who have watched Reed since his early travel baseball days call him “a natural.”
Hard to argue.
With this young man from a small, sleepy town nestled on the Alabama-Tennessee state line, baseball prowess is creating a buzz higher than anything that’s happened with Ardmore athletics in more than two decades.
For the first time in 25 years, Ardmore has a student-athlete who is taking his game to the Southeastern Conference. During the offseason, Reed, a 6-foot-2 left-handed pitcher, gave a commitment to national power Vanderbilt, picking the Commodores over Alabama and Ole Miss.
And he’s living up to the SEC hype.
This season, Reed has thrown 23 innings and is 3-0 for Class 4A No. 10 Ardmore (10-3), but the last one was a memorable gem.
In that 5-0 win against rival Elkmont, he struck out 21 while giving up two hits. For those not familiar with the ins and outs of high school baseball, those 21 strikeouts were every out in the game.
“Having a player like Cody, it’s been a lot of fun,” Ardmore coach Andrew Smith said with a wide smile.
“Guys like that don’t come around often. When he made his first start as a freshman (in 2011), you could tell from just watching him that that he was going to be something special.”
Twenty-one strikeouts is a career best, but that the phenomenon happened shouldn’t come as a surprise. Hard-throwing left-handed pitchers with a live fastball are a rare commodity.
Combine that natural talent with a five-pitch repertoire, along with developed accuracy and experienced baseball savvy, and Reed has taken a spot as one of the area’s best pitchers.
Something that’s not new at Ardmore — even though a pitcher of this caliber hasn’t cycled through the Tigers’ system in a long time.
Since 1988, to be exact.
Compare Reed to Ardmore’s
last SEC student-athlete, and the scouting reports are eerily similar.
JoJo Smith was a big left-handed pitcher. He had a live fastball.
And Smith played college baseball at, you guessed it, Vanderbilt.
“Not too long ago, I got to meet JoJo,” Reed said. “When JoJo found out that I had committed to Vandy, he reached out to me. The main advice he gave me: Being a small-town guy, be ready for the big-city adventure.”
At Vanderbilt, Smith had standout numbers. In 1990, he won nine games (tied with David Price for fourth-best in program history) while recording six saves (fifth most in program history) with a team-leading 2.67 ERA.
Whether Reed can match Smith’s accomplishments remains to be seen.
Based on his mental and physical attributes, the odds are leaning in his favor.
At 6-2 and 215 pounds, Reed is built physically like a linebacker — even though he no longer plays football. And mentally? He’s no slouch, either.
Spark a conversation with Reed. It doesn’t take long to realize that he’s sharp. In a formal interview, Reed chooses his words carefully — but yet, quickly. He doesn’t stumble through statements. Every response is clear, with a serious, mature tone.
“Cody is a great teammate,” Ardmore catcher Hunter Moore said. “He likes to cut-up some, but when it’s time to practice or play, Cody is strictly business.
“He’s definitely a special player. Just come out and watch him pitch. His fastball hurts my hand, at times. But what makes it good is the movement.”
With that last statement, Andrew Smith nodded his head in approval.
“That fastball is live. It’s really moving,” the Ardmore coach said. “And he has really improved his command with his fastball and off-speed stuff. He’s putting all of his pitches where he wants them.
“All the hype and fanfare hasn’t affected Cody, at all. Cody is always going to be himself. He has the perfect mental makeup to handle the pressure and high expectations.”
Even in the midst of Ardmore’s strong start to the baseball season — and newfound fanfare — Reed isn’t overly consumed with his favorite sport. He hasn’t forgotten his roots, nor have his priorities changed.
Reed remains involved in the community. In a few weeks, he plans to help with Ardmore’s Special Olympics.
Academics also remain an important part of his student-athlete life. When discussing his Vanderbilt commitment, Reed said attending a nationally revered academic institution is a challenge that drew him toward Nashville.
“When Coach Derek Johnson, who is now with the Cubs, came to one of my games and offered, the decision was pretty much a no-brainer,” Reed said. “Excitement shot all the way through me. I actually broke down into tears. Not only do they have a great baseball program, but the academics are outstanding. It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.”
According to Smith, Reed’s fastball consistently hits 87 to 89 miles per hour on radar guns — a rare feat for high school left-handers. Couple that pitch with a change-up that tails like a two-seam fastball, along with a hard slider, and the Ardmore pitching ace makes life at the plate difficult for opposing hitters.
Those skills — and his recent SEC commitment — have created the hype.
But for Reed, newfound fame hasn’t been an issue.
Even though he’s been labeled a major-college prospect, Reed doesn’t consider himself a prep superstar. He continues to critique his game, constantly trying to improve.
And the big lefty continues to get better.
“It took me a while to get used to the game jitters that went along with the expectations,” said Reed, who plays travel baseball with the Nashville-based Knights organization. “Playing in front of college coaches, and even a few professional scouts, I used to get a little bit nervous.
“But in the long run, that pressure has made me better. There’s not much that fazes me anymore.”
That’s showing on the field.
Reed is 3-0 on the season. He has given up only five hits while averaging 2.5 strikeouts per inning in his 23 innings of work this spring. He has 58 K’s.
As a freshman, Reed finished with 99 strikeouts, and last season, he had 102 strikeouts.
Reed hopes to surpass those marks this season while helping the Tigers make a run in the Class 4A playoffs.
“Pitching is all about repetition. Lots and lots of repetition,” Reed said. “No matter how good you are, you can always get better. That’s the way I’ve always approached the game.
“Even though I have a commitment, I’m going to continue to keep my head level and go about business the right way because the players who make it in this game are the ones who never stop working to improve.”
Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at email@example.com.
|High School Sports||@DecaturPreps|