Valley Preps

Well-rounded Jerrette Lee prepared to excel at the next level

David Mitchell

Columbus High senior Jerrette Lee hits a ball during a travel ball game. Lee has committed to play baseball at the University of Pennsylvania.
Columbus High senior Jerrette Lee hits a ball during a travel ball game. Lee has committed to play baseball at the University of Pennsylvania.

If you only follow high school baseball, Jerrette Lee’s name may not ring a bell. While he is a member of the Columbus High baseball team, he only appeared in five games and recorded one hit as a junior last season.

Outside of the confines of Randy Jordan Field, however, he’s made quite an impression. From Perfect Game baseball showcases to service projects around the city, Lee has proven himself to be one of the more well-rounded athletes in the area.

He committed to the University of Pennsylvania, earlier this month to continue his baseball career, but he knows that the benefits of earning an Ivy League education are just as important.

Lee’s resume reads more like someone looking for a career post-college than one just preparing to graduate high school.

There are the extracurricular activities at school, in addition to baseball, like Spanish Club, FBLA, National Honor Society, National Society of High School Scholars and Chess Club, for which he serves as president.

And there are the community service hours he’s worked since before he even began attending high school — the two summers he volunteered with the Gangs Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program, the year he worked with the Columbus Scholars, the summer he helped Columbus Parks and Recreation with their children’s summer camps, his mentorship for the Urban League of Greater Columbus and his leadership in collecting 150 pounds of nonperishables relief in the 2011 tornado disaster that occurred in Alabama.

He said his dedication to those kinds of projects began with the latter, when he and fellow Columbus High senior — and outgoing Division-I athlete — Essang Bassey got together to collect cans for a food drive.

“After that, I was just really motivated to help out where I could,” Lee said.

By his freshman year in high school, he had already volunteered 120 hours with the G.R.E.A.T. program, finishing with nearly 300 a year later.

That led to his work with the Urban League, where he participates in block parties to speak with kids in lower socioeconomic communities. He also worked with kids in the Columbus Scholars program, kids devoted to succeeding in education and going to college, tutoring them on homework and helping them succeed in the classroom.

“It’s just showed me what a difference you can have with kids,” said the senior. “You learn a lot about the dangers that some of them face, and you’re motivated to do what you can to help them have the benefits that you’ve been able to have.”

With all of his off-the-field exploits, it would be understandable if Lee was just a so-so athlete. After all, who would have the time to develop skills in baseball when so much of their time is dedicated elsewhere?

And yet, Lee, who is listed at 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds on his Perfect Game baseball profile, has risen to a top 500 national ranking, earning him the scholarship offer to Penn. Most of that attention came at showcases, rather than being a player who excelled on the high school field.

“High school wasn’t a big booster for me,” he said. “It was the end of my junior year that I realized I wasn’t on a whole lot of radars, so we started going to play in perfect game tournaments and the showcases and putting up some good numbers there.”

He began getting contacted by a number of coaches and realized that playing at the next level was a good possibility.

“I always had a strong work ethic before, and I always knew I could make something of myself, but after seeing that I wanted it even more,” he said.

He was recruited by Penn as a center fielder and said the school has given him some indication that he could get significant playing time as a freshman. But his choice to go to Penn over some other offers came down to academics.

“Every athlete’s dream is to make it to the top level,” he said. “That’s the same for me. I want to play baseball as long as I can make it. “But sports can end at any time, so my parents always stressed getting my work done. I want my Plan B to be the strongest it can be, and what’s better than an Ivy League education?”

Lee will sign his scholarship during a ceremony at the school at 1:45 p.m. Feb. 10.