After each game, Casey Taylor sends Sevier County (Sevierville, Tenn.) baseball players over to shake hands with their fans. When he sent them over after Friday’s win over Daniel Boone (Gray, Tenn.), the fans stood and applauded Kenny Naysmith.
Most high school baseball players never hit a grand slam. The center fielder, new to the Smoky Bears this year, hit two in one game, plus a three-run home run for good measure.
“My little sister was jumping around,” Naysmith said. “My dad was impressed and amazed.”
In the dugout, his teammates had asked what Naysmith had for breakfast. Cocoa Pebbles, the breakfast of champions.
Naysmith’s 11 RBIs doubled his total on the season and accounted for the difference in the 17-6 game. He was a passed ball away from a third grand slam and a state record. He stepped up to the plate with the based loaded, but the runner at third scored on a passed ball before he hit his third home run.
Instead, Naysmith joined eight other players in a tie for the state record of two grand slams in a game, according to the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association. His three home runs are a tie for second and 11 RBIs puts him in a tie for third in state history.
It’s not like Naysmith regularly slugs them out of the park. He’s hit some doubles and a few off the wall, but before the Smoky Mountain Invitational, he only had one homer. The 5-foot-9, 155-pound senior says he’s not big enough to be a true power hitter.
His coach, however, says Naysmith’s aggressive style in the box counters that lack of size. He gets the bat through the zone quickly, which adds some power to the swing.
“He’s hit several balls out during batting practice,” Taylor said. “We knew he had some power, but we didn’t expect it to come all at once.”
He knew something was coming. Naysmith had recently asked for help on his swing and the tips on elbow positioning were paying off. His timing was there, the power was coming. Taylor said that Naysmith was due for a big game, but had no idea how big.
Naysmith missed on his first swing of the game — he went a little early — but said that was the last one he missed. He hit a stand-up double high off the wall, just short of being a home run. After that, it was easy.
“My next three at-bats, the first swing I took went over the fence,” he said. “It was like I didn’t even have to try.”
Taylor wants to see that confidence linger. Having gone off gives a player an obvious confidence boost, but the trust that comes from teammates after a big game adds to that as well.
“When a guy gets into a little rhythm likes this,” Taylor said, “the ball seems to be going a little slower, seems a little bigger than it is.”