This time last year Jesse Simpson was pitching for his high school baseball team in Zachary, La. Just last semester he was a student at Pensacola (Fla.) Junior College.
Now the 6-foot, 180-pound right-handed pitcher has found a new home – Ole Miss.
Simpson was highly recruited out of high school. He looked hard at LSU, the team he'd grown up watching in his area. Ole Miss was heavily in the picture. North Carolina State was in there too, as was Kentucky. Others tried to gain his attention, but those were basically the four he looked upon with the most interest.
But he went to Pensacola J.C. for several reasons. One factor was his draft. He was chosen in the 49th round by the Braves.
"I had gotten drafted real low. So I thought draft and follow would be the way to go. And I thought I needed to start off at a smaller school to get acclimated and adjusted to school and baseball," said Simpson, who posted a 14-1 record with two saves in 93.1 innings of work as a senior, allowing 55 hits while striking out 141 and walking 30 with a 0.80 ERA during that time. "So I went to junior college because it was small. But the program wasn't exactly what I thought it would be. I knew if I had a chance to play at a Division I school, I'd take it now."
So he looked around and Ole Miss was on his mind. Obviously having recruited him out of high school, the Rebels also knew of Simpson.
"I had visited all those (four) schools in the summer. This is where I thought was the best place for me, the place I'd fit in the best," said Simpson, not necessarily a stranger to different schools as he played for three high schools in his four prep seasons – Bethany Christian School as a freshman, Central Private School as a sophomore and junior, and Zachary High as a senior.
It's almost like a fresh start for the oft-traveled Simpson, who believes he's found a home in Oxford.
"It is like starting all over," he said. "I knew there were some pitchers who had left here after last season, and so I felt I could come in and help. That's one of the main reasons I'm here."
Simpson, not necessarily projected yet at any certain position - starter or reliever - by the Rebel coaches, said he has followed Ole Miss baseball closely for a while now.
"I came here when South Carolina played here last season," he said. "I watched the Super Regional on TV. It was awesome."
Having followed LSU's success closely over the years, and now at Ole Miss with a program trying to get to Omaha and falling just a game short last season, Simpson believes he's indeed in the right place. He also believes he can step in and help if the coaches call his number.
"I'm not a power pitcher," he said. "I have four pitches, and the main thing I do is try to throw any of the four for a strike – fast ball, curve, slider, changeup. I guess I've had more success with the slider so far. But I feel any of them can be effective."
The Rebels are hoping Simpson is just that – effective when he's needed. His career to this point has shown that will most likely be the case.
Simpson hopes to help Rebs on the mound
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