August 13, 2010
Esposito Caps Sophomore Season
with Silver Medal
By Jimmy Jones
Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com
every sport, we see players who are integral parts of their
team's success but fail to gain the recognition given to
flashier rivals or those that play in larger media markets where
they enjoy maximum exposure. Their anonymity may be attributable
to playing in the shadow of better-known teammates, getting lost
in the shuffle in a star-studded conference like the SEC, or for
any of a variety of other reasons.
It may be understandable for Jason Esposito to go
unrecognized beyond the Vanderbilt campus in Nashville,
Tennessee for now, but don't look for that trend to continue
next season when he suits up to play third base for the
He is one of the first players to the field for
practice or game day and he is one of the last to leave, earning
praise from Commodore coach Tim Corbin for his work ethic and
leadership this season.
Somehow, the five-tool future star hasn't been
noticed on a national level yet.
That will change in the coming season.
Esposito, a true sophomore, had a stellar
campaign last spring for the Commodores, batting .359 with 12
homers, and 64 RBI. He also stole 31 bases in 35 attempts and
boasted a .455 on base percentage. His 25 doubles led the
Despite the impressive numbers, he was left off
the All-SEC team because of the outstanding seasons that
Arkansas' Zach Cox and Florida's Brian Johnson recorded and
wasn't on the list of All-Americans, even in the honorable
mention category, when the votes were tabulated.
Undeterred, Espo (as his he known to teammates)
went on to lead VU to 46 wins, the second-most in school
history, and to its first-ever Super Regional in Tallahassee
against Florida State where he hit .444 with two home runs,
drove in five runs, scored four times and stole two bases.
The 6'1", 190-pound Connecticut native, who
turned down a reported $1.5 million bonus from the Kansas City
Royals out of high school, had just settled in for the summer
with the Orleans Firebirds in the Cape Cod League when he got a
call from Sonny Gray, his teammate at Vanderbilt and a member of
the USA Collegiate National Team, who casually asked if he would
like to come play ball with them for the summer.
had no idea that I was being considered," Esposito said. "I was
at home on my day off visiting with family and friends when
Sonny (left, with Esposito) called and asked me if I wanted to
play. The next day I was on my way to join the team."
He was not in the original group of 38 that was
invited to the trials, but was foremost on the minds of the USA
coaching staff when Dick Howser Trophy winner Anthony Rendon
injured his ankle early on to end his summer.
"Jason had been on our radar for a year in
selecting this team, but we felt like Anthony was going to make
our team and play third base most of the games for us this
summer," Team USA Head Coach Bill Kinneberg said.
"When Anthony got hurt,” Kinneberg said, “Jason
was the first word out of my mouth that night. He came in and
really kind of saved us a little bit. It was a difficult deal
for him because we had already been through the trials and was
in the middle of the Korean series when he joined us.
"He came in and was thrown into the spotlight
right away, but he handled it great and became a very vital part
of our team's success because of what he brought to the team."
Esposito promptly went to work and put together a
nine-game hitting streak and played outstanding defense at the
hot corner to help his team to a silver-medal finish at the
World University Baseball Championships in Japan.
"It was a great experience and probably the most
fun that I have ever had playing baseball," Esposito said.
"Playing on Team USA with some of the best kids in the country
against some of the best competition in the world on a daily
basis was a great experience.
"The kids were outstanding and the coaching staff
was great to work with. It was just first class all the way. My
only regret is that we didn't bring back the gold medal."
Ask him about his lack of attention and Esposito
responds in his own typical understated style.
"My only concerns are that we came up one game
short of the World Series last season and no one on our team is
going to settle for that. This sport is not about individuals or
awards, it is about team effort and winning championships. That
is my focus for next season and anything less will be a
disappointment. The rest of that stuff will take care of
There are athletes who when they take the field,
everyone knows it. Then there are those who quietly earn the
spotlight with leadership, talent, and by giving back to the
game with a strong work ethic on and off the diamond.
Jason Esposito is just that type of player. The
Vanderbilt Commodores coaching staff recognized those qualities
two years ago when they recruited him.
He may not enjoy the extra attention, but the
rest of the nation will soon know as well.
(photos by Jimmy Jones, medal photo
courtesy of Jason Esposito)