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Sports

Local H.S. Baseball Star, Smeltzer, Chooses Florida Gulf Coast

Devin Smeltzer (credit: Joseph Santoliquito)

Devin Smeltzer (credit: Joseph Santoliquito)

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By Joseph Santoliquito

Cherry Hill, NJ (CBS) —It’s always nice to get it out of the way, one less major decision when it comes to an athlete’s senior year of high school. It’s the pleasant situation Bishop Eustace senior-to-be Devin Smeltzer finds himself, after choosing to accept a baseball scholarship to Florida Gulf Coast for September 2014.

Smeltzer, 17, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound left-handed pitcher finished his junior year with an 8-3 record, throwing 1 no-hitter and an ERA of 1.70, with 109 strikeouts over 58 innings. He throws in the upper-80s, early-90s and also hit .337 with four home runs.

He chose Florida Gulf Coast over South Carolina.

Smeltzer may have an interesting dilemma this time next year. And pleasant one, too. He’s getting attention from Major League Baseball teams Cincinnati, Seattle and Cleveland.

“I couldn’t be happier with my decision and I’m really looking forward to it; I loved the Florida Gulf Coast campus and I had a great connection with the coaches, I really liked all of them,” said Smeltzer, who beat cancer when he was nine-years-old. “They take getting you to the next level seriously. It’s nice to not think about it anymore and just play.”

Smeltzer just returned from the Perfect Game national tournament, where he pitched two innings. It’s the start of a big summer, which continues this Tuesday, when he leaves for North Carolina and tryouts for the USA national under-18 team. In early-July, it will be off to Georgia with his club summer team, Tri-State Arsenal, and after that, Arizona, hopefully, if he makes the first cuts of the national team.

The goal is to play in the Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic, featuring the best high school juniors in the nation the summer before their senior year, played on Aug. 12 at San Diego State’s Tony Gwynn Stadium.

“I’m excited about this summer, I’m looking forward to the traveling,” Smeltzer said. “There wasn’t any real pressure with my college choice. In college, I’m looking to be a two-way player, but to the drafted, I’m okay being just a pitcher.”

When he was nine, Smeltzer survived a grapefruit-sized tumor pressing against his bladder. The tumor proved to be cancerous, though treatable (see related story).

In December 2012, Devin’s cancer was in complete remission. He’s been cancer-free ever since.

“It made me realize that playing baseball is a privilege to play,” Smeltzer said. “I saw so many kids go through chemo that weren’t able to play or walk again. Once I got over the negatives about it I turned it into as positive a situation as I could, if you could turn being 9 and having cancer into something positive.”

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