It may be November, but the baseball season is already started for Horace Mann School’s Jesse Roth ’13—the college baseball season, that is.
Roth, HM’s pitching ace, signed a contract to play baseball for the University of Virginia following his upcoming high school graduation in June 2013. Donning a cap emblazoned with the crossed swords of the UVA Cavaliers, Roth signed in an informal ceremony in the Moose Miller Room of Horace Mann’s gym. He was joined by his parents, Allan and Mindy Michaels Roth, his Lions Baseball teammates, his coaches, several of his teachers, and friends from other grades at Horace Mann. The signing made official Roth’s intention to attend and play for the University of Virginia, a school he had committed to following his sophomore year at HM.
While Roth kept his blue and orange UVA ‘Hoos colors on, he also proudly held up his white with maroon-lettered HM Lions varsity baseball team shirt, noting that before he heads south to Virginia, he is first looking forward to his final season, pitching and playing first base for Horace Mann. “Each year our record has gotten better and better, and I’m looking forward to focusing on HM’s team this spring. I hope we’re headed for the playoffs, and hopefully a championship this year,” said the HM senior.
Horace Mann Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly was on hand to congratulate the pitcher. “This is a wonderful moment for Jesse, and for Horace Mann. Jesse is a great student, and a great athlete, whose commitment to his studies and to his teammates is as strong as his commitment to baseball. We wish him luck in the future, but, in the meantime, we can all look forward to seeing him pitch one last season for Horace Mann this spring,” said Dr. Kelly of Roth, who is also a student in the Head of School’s AP Psychology class.
Jesse Roth came to Horace Mann School as a ninth-grader, and played varsity baseball during his freshman year. Roth said he already knew people at Horace Mann, including his current baseball Coach Neil Berniker, who had seen him play against HM as a middle schooler at Elizabeth Morrow School in Englewood, New Jersey. “He was happy to hear I would be coming to Horace Mann,” said Roth.
But Roth said his choice of Horace Mann was based on the strength of its academic curriculum. The fact that HM had sent current major leaguer alumnus Pedro Alvarez ’05 first to Vanderbilt University to play ball did not cross Roth’s mind back then. At HM he has cultivated his interest in biology and bio-tech classes, and plans to be “pre-med at UVA,” he said. A student in HM’s advanced Japanese level 4 class, he also hopes his knowledge of the language will come into use in a possible future career in baseball. “I met Hideki Matsui once, and spoke a little Japanese to him,” Roth said of the former NY Yankee outfielder. “My Japanese is better now. I might get to use it with other Japanese players one day.”
Arriving at HM as a 5’8” tall freshman, Roth started as shortstop during his first season, but his coaches eventually tried him as a pitcher. “Once I got on the mound, I found my place,” he said. As a senior who turns 18 on April 18, 2013, Roth measures 6’3” and weighs in at 190, and notes that his best pitch today is probably “my change-up.”
Coach Berniker described Roth as “a power pitcher who taps out at 91-plus. He generates lots of strikes, and gives up few hits. He exhibits good control and command of his pitches. He’s also a team player who loves to compete and loves the challenge. He takes his training, and his conditioning very, very seriously. He works very hard, and our younger players learn from his workouts and his work ethic.”
That work ethic manifests itself in the rigorous training Roth does throughout the year. This year he was able to schedule his classes back-to-back with no free periods, so that he can work out every day after school—three to three-and-a-half hours four days a week, with former major leaguer Brian Aviles. Once a month, Roth travels to Boston to work on his physical conditioning with noted trainer Eric Cressey, who works with a number of major leaguers. Roth is well-aware of the importance of staying healthy. His father, a former varsity football player, is a physical therapist who has worked with many professional players, including on the Giants and Nets.
The past few summers have seen Jesse Roth on the mound for top traveling teams—first with the esteemed New York Nines, and last summer with the Evoshield Canes. Playing other high-schoolers around the country, Roth caught the attention of a number of college coaches. The University of Virginia reached out to him, and after visiting the campus of the then number one team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Roth committed. “It’s a very strong university academically, and that was important to me,” he said.
By the time Roth joined the Evoshield Canes last summer he was playing with and against the top competitors in the country. The team is based in Virginia, and included two other players who had already committed to UVA. “There was great competition, and I got to know some of the people I will be playing with in college, and guys I will be playing against,” he said.
“He’s a gamer now, and he will get bigger, better and stronger. He has a great attitude toward the game, and we are look forward to his senior year, said Coach Berniker.
HM Athletic Director Robert Annunziata agreed that the coming baseball season will be exciting. “It does make a difference when you have some really good players on the team. It’s a big plus for the program. Besides Pedro in 2005, last year, we had Harrison Bader ‘12, who will be playing for Florida. Today’s signing not only celebrates Jesse, it celebrates the whole team,” Annunziata said.