Wherever Chris Jenkins goes, he gets noticed. In the study of karate, Jenkins holds a black belt. In basketball, he earned a varsity letter as a sophomore. On the baseball field, a caravan of professional scouts follow him every time he pitches.
Jenkins always seems to stand out. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he stands 6-feet-7. That fact is not lost on the baseball talent evaluators, who project that his large, sturdy frame will give Jenkins a chance to succeed in college or professionally.
However, it’s Jenkins’ tenacity on the mound that really separates him.
“There are plenty of players that throw hard and gave great stuff,” Jenkins said. “But if you don’t go after hitters with intensity, you will not be successful.”
Though he’s only a high school senior, Jenkins has already gotten a taste of what it feels like to flourish in the sport of baseball. In his first varsity start as a sophomore, Jenkins fired a five-inning no-hitter.
In the past two seasons, he has led Westfield (N.J.) to the Union County semifinals and finals, respectively. He has also thrived in summer showcases.
“I was lucky enough to be selected to the AFLAC and Under Armour All-American games,” Jenkins said. “It was great to match up against some of the country’s top players.”
Jenkins was an easy selection for both all-star games after the sensational stats that he posted as a junior for the Blue Devils. In 30 innings, Jenkins fanned 61 batters while pitching to a 1.63 earned run average.
Though his size always helped him stand out, especially in baseball, it wasn’t always for positive reasons. He now looks up to taller pitchers like Randy Johnson, Chris Young, and Justin Verlander, but Jenkins initially found his height to be a challenge.
As a younger child, Jenkins lacked the coordination he currently has and was on the clumsy side. Support from his family encouraged Jenkins to stick with baseball. Ironically, neither his mother nor his father had any background in the game. He’s the first baseball player in his family; he and his parents were introduced to the sport at the same time.
“My first recollection of playing baseball was when I was six years old. My dad bought me my first mitt and we started playing catch in the front yard every day,” Jenkins said. “It was a learning experience for both of us, as my father never played a game of baseball in his life.”
That hasn’t prevented him from having a big impact on Jenkins’ career though.
“Despite not playing he has always been a great coach.”
Being raised in Westfield has provided Jenkins with a host of other supportive figures that have allowed his baseball career to take off.
“Westfield has been a tremendous place to grow up. Everyone has been extremely supportive of my efforts on and off the baseball field,” he said. “Westfield has always had a great appreciation for sports and it shows in the little league and instructional programs around town.”
In the fall, Jenkins will back his bags for California and pitch for Stanford. He’s already become a big fan of the Cardinal, and roots for Stanford’s various sports teams. The only possible hitch in his route to Northern California could come next week at the Major League Baseball Draft.
“It is definitely exciting,” Jenkins said. “Playing Major League Baseball has always been a dream of mine.”
The attention he’s received from major league scouts during his senior season has not affected his game. He continues to exert the same effort as he did when he was the tall youngster awkwardly learning the game.
“At first the scouts were intimidating. However, I have become so accustomed to them that I no longer recognize that they are watching my games. I try to play every game with the same mentality,” Jenkins said. “You never know who is watching so you better give it your all every pitch.”