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The Journal Gazette

  • Chris Schanz | The Commercial Review  Former Snider standout and Bengals rookie Jessie Bates III throws out the first pitch before the TinCaps game. 

  • Associated Press Bengals rookie safety Jessie Bates III, a Snider graduate, participates in the team’s rookie minicamp in May.

Friday, July 06, 2018 1:00 am

Bengals rookie back on diamond

Bates tosses ceremonial pitch for TinCaps

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

Snider graduate Jessie Bates III returned to a baseball diamond again, but not in his previous capacity as a center fielder for the Snider Panthers.

It was his third appearance at Parkview Field after playing a travel game in eighth grade and an SAC game as a senior, but this one was different. The Cincinnati Bengals rookie safety threw out a ceremonial first pitch before the TinCaps' series finale against Great Lakes on Thursday night.

“I threw a two-seam. I didn't get warmed up like I wanted to, so I didn't throw a strike, but I felt like I had a little bit in me,” he said of the throw that went a little high. “I only pitched one time at Snider. I played center field the whole time. Stepping out on the field was still familiar for me.

“I played baseball my whole life growing up. I did everything I could to keep myself busy.”

Bates, wearing a custom TinCaps jersey with his name and No. 30 on the back, signed autographs on the concourse for an hour before the ceremonial first pitch.

Although he has done similar autograph sessions in Cincinnati, he said those were with people he didn't know. So coming home had a different feel.

“I see my teachers from high school come up,” he said of Thursday's autograph signing at the ballpark. “Having the interaction with them is awesome, as well as everyone else who came out to show support.

“Every opportunity I get, I try to come home because I know how special people are here in Fort Wayne. This is home for me, and it always will be.”

With his mother absent (she's on her honeymoon), Bates had his father, siblings and nephew in attendance, some of whom were wearing a No. 30 Bengals jersey.

“My sister had my jersey on today,” Bates said. “My mom had one on the other day; it was a pretty special moment for a mother to buy their son's jersey.”

Bates, Cincinnati's second-round draft pick out of Wake Forest, attended the Bengals rookie camp in May. Before reporting back to Cincinnati on July 23 for training camp, he says he has some refocusing to do. That will include returning to Florida where he trained for the NFL combine so he can get back to the “flow of things.”

“Rookie camp and (organized team activities) was really good for me,” he said. “I think I've gained respect and some trust with the players and coaches. My whole deal is to go in there and be a sponge and gain as much knowledge as I can to have success this year.”

Bates was redshirted his freshman year and declared early for the NFL draft after playing two years with the Demon Deacons. It wasn't until he arrived at the rookie camp in May that the magnitude of his situation really sunk in.

“Sitting at my locker, putting on my cleats and an NFL jersey and helmet, you can't beat that,” he said. “I just say a prayer every time I go out and practice because this is a blessing.”

areichel@jg.net