Jack of all trades: Vest, now a senior, has worked hard to prove himself as a top-notch baseball player at West Forsyth

Published 12:27 am Thursday, March 7, 2024

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

Jack Vest has bided his time as a baseball player at West Forsyth.

Two years ago, as a sophomore, he was playing center field and was the No. 3 starting pitching behind Payton Martin, who is now playing in the minor-league system for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Harrison Lewis, who is now pitching as a freshman at North Carolina, were ahead of Vest in the pecking order for the West Forsyth baseball team.

Now, as a senior, Martin and Lewis are now gone, and it’s Vest’s turn. At 6-foot-1, he is more than up to the task.

“I spent a lot of time in the gym at Torque in Clemmons and getting a lot stronger and putting on the weight,” Vest said. “And it just kind of helped protect my arm a little bit more.”

According to Vest, his weight was between 155-160 pounds. Now, he’s between 175-180.

“Every morning, I would have five or six eggs, a bunch of egg whites, and oatmeal, and some type of fruit,” Vest said. “And for lunch, I’d have a pound of chicken and a cup of rice, and then I’d have like broccoli with it or something. And I’d always have something in between my meals, whether it’d be like a protein shake or some type of food.”

As for dinner?

“Whatever my mom made,” he said.

As of Tuesday morning, Vest pitched the season opener last week at Forbush, pitching a shutout. He was even stellar at the plate against Forbush. He hit the game-winning home run in the eighth inning to help West Forsyth win 1-0.

Like last week, he was scheduled to pitch Tuesday night in the Central Piedmont 4-A opener at Davie County. He also played center field last Thursday night at West Stokes in a 7-6 loss. He will mostly likely play outfield or will be the designated hitter during the games he doesn’t pitch.

“I feel a lot stronger at the plate, and I feel it’s a lot easier to throw harder on the mound,” Vest said. “And my arm is a lot healthier now.”

Alluding to arm problems last season, Vest admits to having his arm checked by a doctor, saying he had a sprained triceps and muscle tightness in his forearm.

“I was having some arm pain (last season), and that kind of brought everything down, and I’d get hit more whenever I was having arm pain,” he said. “But I still made all-conference last year.”

Despite the pain, he played through it.

“It was a couple things,” Vest said. “A lot of it was, I think my main problem was too much time in practice where I’d be doing outfield throws, and I would go pitch, as well. And it was just too much.”

Vest was told the pain would never really go away. He said he took a month off from throwing after last season and concentrated on just going to the gym.

Although a volunteer assistant coach to former Head Coach Brad Bullard, who resigned after the season, is now an assistant athletic director at West Forsyth, Coach Kevin McIntosh had a chance to witness Vest last season and has seen how he’s progressed.

“In the role I was in last year, I got to know him, and this year, he stepped up in the fall and been our leader, and been that senior that, he’s done what we’ve asked him to do,” McIntosh said.

After being named head coach last summer, Vest and McIntosh had a conversation.

“He’s the senior,” McIntosh said. “He’s the one now that everyone, he’s going to get everybody’s best. And it’s just time for him to really step up and fulfill that role and be ready to go.”

Although the Titans don’t have captains, there is a clear delineation. Not only is Vest top-notch on the mound, McIntosh calls him the “field general in the outfield.”

“He’s our No. 1, and obviously, game 1, he hits the walk-off home run for us against Forbush,” McIntosh said. “It was a 0-0 ballgame going into the eighth inning, and he hit the solo home run for us in that game, and we ended up winning 1-0.”

Most weeks, starting this week, there will be a conference game on Tuesday, and the same two teams will play at the opposite site on Friday. However, there will be some mid-week nonconference games played during the season.

“I don’t really think too much about it,” Vest said of being the No. 1 starter. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can to win every time I go on the mound.”

With all the work Vest put in during the offseason, he’s in a good place.

“I’m 100 percent confident with where I am now,” he said. “I feel great right now.”

Part of getting better is improving his confidence. He didn’t lack confidence as a player. He just saw himself more as an off-speed pitcher. He’s starting to mix in some fastballs now. He said his fastball used to be in the low 80s, and now it’s in the low 90s. Vest doesn’t even have to work on the college-recruiting process. He’s long since committed to pitch at East Tennessee.

“He’s worked really hard in the weight room,” McIntosh said. “He’s worked really hard to be healthy to stay healthy. And I know he went to Torque and worked out there pretty regularly. And we had our weight-lifting stuff in the winter he was there. He’s definitely now shied away from the work ethic because I’m going to college, I’m a senior, and whatnot. But he’s worked harder, I think.”

Vest has even studied from others as to how to get better.

“Jack’s a student of the ballgame always has been,” McIntosh said. “And I’m sure he picked up on just little things of alright, now I’m the No. 1. Going back to Payton Martin, to Harrison, and now it’s his turn to be the dude.

“And it’s kind of what we keep saying is, ‘Who’s going to be the next one?’ And right now, it’s Jack, and that’s the horse we’ve got to ride.
In addition to his prowess on the mound, Vest said he wants to make no errors in the outfield. And after hitting a home run last week against Forbush, his offensive skills speak for themselves.

He’s already improved one stat. He didn’t hit any home runs last season.

“I think I’ve always been able to go up against anybody and have confidence whenever I’m hitting,” he said. “And I don’t think whenever I’m going in to hit, I don’t think anybody can overpower me or anything. And I feel like in any scenario, I can make something happen.”
Being the No. 1 pitcher in a tough conference will be a different task. Last season, the Titans finished 19-9 overall and 10-4 in the Central Piedmont 4-A.

“Jack’s obviously, he’s a key factor at the plate and a key factor for us on the mound,” McIntosh said. “And if things are going good with Jack, and if Jack’s giving us six or seven innings on the mound, then things are going to be pretty good for the Titans.”
No matter how the season finishes for Vest and West Forsyth, he’s already looking forward to that next chapter in his life, heading to Bristol, Tenn., to pitch in college.

“I’d definitely want to pitch in college, and I’d love to go play professionally,” he said. “But I might get hurt. I might have to do something else. But best-case scenario I’d love to play baseball.”