Back in the swing of things

CLEMSON - D.J. Reader is cut out for college football. Now, he's out to prove he has the goods to play college baseball.

Reader recorded 40 tackles in 236 snaps as a freshman on the gridiron for Dabo Swinney. This spring, he'll take his talents across the street to play ball for Jack Leggett.

During Monday's Clemson baseball media day, Reader admitted that it hasn't been easy adjusting to life on the diamond.

"It was really difficult," he said. "You're out here with kids who are college pitchers…I probably hadn't seen over 85 [MPH] since my junior year, because I only played seven games my senior year. It was a big adjustment. It was really tough to make.

"I got better [Sunday]. So, hopefully, I'll keep getting better."

That's one of the traits that impress Leggett -- Reader's ability to make adjustments from one day to the next.

"A couple of days ago, we had the breaking ball machine out here, he had trouble making contact with it, the next day, a little better contact. [Sunday], he had a lot better contact," Leggett said. "He's one of those guys that seems to have a good aptitude for learning."

Reader has some game, too. But he's had to knock some rust off the swing that produced a .529 batting average, four homeruns and 20 RBI during his junior at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, N.C.

"Trying to keep everything good on your swing, it's definitely difficult. I'm having a problem right now, moving my head a lot and keeping my eye on the ball," Reader said. "It's difficult to get back into, because you're out there free swinging sometimes."

Leggett said there are some functional parts in that swing.

"He's got some snap in his hands. And he is pretty strong. Being 300-plus pounds, it doesn't seem to bother his flexibility. He's got some looseness in his hands as a hitter," Leggett said.

On the mound as a junior, Reader went 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA. For now, the 6-foot-3, 335-pound freshman has one pitch, a mid to low 80's fastball.

He was scheduled to throw a couple of innings during Monday's scrimmage.

"D.J. is a great kid. We're going to give him an opportunity to show us what he can do," Leggett said. "We'll make some decisions whether he's got a future in baseball here or doesn't.

"Right now, we've got a tremendously open mind about it. He showed us some things [Sunday] that we're anxious to see [Monday]."

Reader's happy to be back with his first love on a full-time basis.

"I'm really excited. My teammates are great. I've gotten along with a lot of guys out here. I'm really excited about the season," he said.

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