Niagara Gazette

Sports

April 25, 2011

Kelso gets fresh start at NCCC

NIAGARA FALLS — When Matt Clingersmith called 6 a.m. practices in the opening weeks of the college baseball season, there was always one man there well before others.

Not only was he there, but he was fully dressed and stretching on his own by 5:30 while many of his Niagara County Community College teammates were hitting snooze in the dorm rooms.

“He meets my definition of character — doing what your told to do when nobody is looking,” Clingersmith said of freshman transfer Jesse Kelso.

Undoubtedly that type of work ethic and character runs in the family as Kelso’s father, Mark, was a standout safety for the Buffalo Bills for years, despite being somewhat undersized and unheralded coming out of both high school and college.

“He was a small guy himself and he had to work incredibly hard to get to the spot where he was,” the younger Kelso said, while noting that his father never pushed him to participate in any sport. “He was the first person that served as an example for me that I have to almost out-work him every single day to be successful.”

Kelso has always been a hard worker and after a successful career at St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster, the centerfielder earned a walk-on spot at Division I Wofford University last season. He was red-shirted, but returned in the fall in hopes of earning more playing time. But after a meeting with the coaching staff, Kelso said it was clear he would not be getting his shot any time soon.

“It was a great experience there, but I wanted to play baseball,” he said.

When thinking about transfer options, Kelso quickly remembered what a good time he had playing for (NCCC assistant coach) Matt Aleski and with (NCCC freshman) Cal Sluberski and T.J. Giczkowski this past summer on a local American Legion team that advanced to the state tournament. Clingersmith had also recruited him during high school, but the clincher was the boatload of talent that made NCCC a contender for a trip to the NJCAA Division III World Series.

“When I came here they talked a lot about the team and wanting to win a National Championship, so from day one we started working toward that,” Kelso said.

The red-haired muscle man set a tremendous example from the minute he set foot on campus, said Clingersmith, who played at Canisius. Kelso, meanwhile, said he was just trying to show his teammates what it takes to be a Division I baseball player.

“I met a bunch of good players down at Wofford and they certainly showed me the work you have to put in to be a good Division I baseball player,” he said. “It’s school and baseball there. Guys go into practice in advance, they come in during breaks and off days. I know if I want to play at that level, I have to work even harder than all those kids.”

So far, it seems as if he’s on the right path. Kelso leads the team in several offensive categories, including hits (22), doubles (8), runs scored (22) and RBIs (18). The left-handed No. 3 hitter is batting .449 for the Thunderwolves, currently ranked third in the nation.

“He is one of the best all-around players in the region,” Clingersmith said. “He’s fundamentally sound. He pounds line drives, he’s got great wheels, he gets good reads on the ball. He’s ready for Division I.”

Kelso said he has received interest from several scholarship schools. Clingersmith added that Division I Liberty has been the most aggressive and plans to offer very soon.

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