Leading the way: Senior Jackson Smith taking on mentorship role for Providence baseball team

Bradley commit is batting .454 with 38 RBIs on the season

Providence’s Jackson Smith drives in a two run double against Lincoln-Way East on Saturday, May 6, 2023 in New Lenox.

NEW LENOX – Coming off a 30-7-1 season with an appearance in the sectional semifinals, Providence Catholic entered the year with high expectations on the baseball field. They returned 12 position players with four of them committed to play Division I baseball. Three of those commitments are just juniors, but the fourth is one of two seniors who have led the Celtics on the field and in the dugout.

That fourth is senior Jackson Smith.

Smith, an infielder who plays primarily shortstop and second base, has been everything he was expected to be on the field and more this season. After batting .511 with 28 RBIs and three home runs last year, he’s hitting .454 with 38 RBIs and five home runs this season heading into last Thursday. If things go the way Providence hopes, he’ll also have a deep playoff run to add to his totals.

To Smith and the rest of the team though, the only numbers that matter are 11 and 3. At the time of this writing, that was Providence’s number of respective wins and losses in the Chicago Catholic League to go with a 25-7 record overall. While his stat line has certainly helped the Celtics reach that point, it’s been his senior leadership that has really come in handy.

“He’s a guy that a lot of kids look up to,” head coach Mark Smith said. “They look to him mostly because of his demeanor. He’s very even-keeled. He never gets too high or too low. When things are going bad, he talks to everyone else and never puts his finger on the panic button.”

When you ask Jackson about his leadership role, he’ll tell you virtually the same thing his head coach would. Never one to hog the spotlight, Jackson also made sure to include his fellow senior Mitch Vogel in the conversation.

“I feel like Mitch as the two seniors have helped the guys a lot,” Smith said. “It’s been kind of easy because we have kind of a similar team to what we had last year. Building chemistry off that wasn’t too tough so we’ve just been helping all the other guys stay calm when stuff goes bad. Me and Mitch do a very good job of just keeping their heads up.”

It’s that kind of demeanor and attitude, along with some impressive numbers, that have helped Jackson get recruited by some of the biggest schools in America. In the end, he decided to stay in state and commit to Bradley. The choice to go with the Braves mainly came down to fit.

“I really liked the campus there,” Jackson said. “The coaches felt like people I could really like playing for. I’m just glad that they found me. I’m excited to play there for the next four years.”

For what it’s worth, Mark Smith believes the Braves are getting not just a heck of an athlete, but a player who knows the ins and outs of the sport as well.

“His body has continued to grow and he’s gotten increasingly stronger,” coach Smith said. “His baseball IQ is off the charts. He understands the game which is not as common anymore. He understands baseball having learned from his dad growing up and his grandpa as a Hall of Fame coach in Tennessee. His knowledge of the game is just incredible.”

Playing in the Missouri Valley Conference will come later. When the time comes for his freshman year, the Celtics will likely still be competing at a high level as players like Enzo Infelise, Nate O’Donnell and Nolan Galla return for one final season in 2025. For now, though, the focus for Jackson and the Celtics is on 2024 and bringing Providence its first state title in baseball since 2016.

“Obviously we want to win it all,” Jackson said. “In the game of baseball, you just control what you can control. Hopefully, it goes our way, but we just have to play the best baseball we can. I think we’re pretty tough to beat. We just have to play our game and see what happens after that.”