Houston a natural at shortstop for Indiana

It all started in the backyard of the family home just outside Chicago.

That’s where Jeremy Houston laid the groundwork for becoming one of the best shortstops in the Midwest.

There, as a young high schooler, he’d work with his older brother, Jerry, who later matriculated to play college ball at Oregon and Missouri. His father, Jerry Sr., and his younger brother, Joshua, were fixtures there, too.

All those short hop drills and activities designed to move his feet around the yard turned Houston into one of the top prep prospects in the state of Illinois. Now, entering the final weeks of his freshman season, he’s solidifying himself as a middle infield fixture for the years to come.

“He’s a real shortstop,” IU coach Chris Lemonis said. “He just really gets how to play it. He gets reads and has great reactions. He can just really play the game out there. He has a great internal clock and he always knows the speed of the runner. (The ball) is always there right before the runner, usually. He’s pretty good.”

And really smooth.

Houston, however, says that wasn’t always the case. He credits the family time in the backyard and also the work Indiana assistant Matt Reida puts in as key reasons his glove has quickly emerged as one of the best in the Big Ten.

Coming out of Mount Carmel High School, where he was a three-year letterwinner, Houston was rated the No. 1 defensive shortstop in Illinois and the No. 11 prospect overall, according to Prep Baseball Report.

“When I was in high school, the glove wasn’t as great,” Houston said. “But my brother really helped me with it. Then, coach Reid also put a lot of time in at the beginning of the year and helped me with the glove. It definitely hasn’t always been there.”

Though Indiana’s coaching staff might disagree with that assessment.

Houston first appeared on the radar while Lemonis was still an assistant at Louisville. To Lemonis, the 5-foot-8, 175-pound recruit was already one of the better shortstops he’d seen around the country, and after Lemonis took the IU job in 2014, he and associate head coach Kyle Bunn and assistant Kyle Cheesebrough made Houston a priority target.

Houston committed to IU in November 2014, and this season he’s showing off how good that glove of his actually is.

He’s made only four errors on the season, with two coming in his first two college games. Across his last 33 games, Houston has merely two errors in 140 chances.

“He has a lot of maturity,” Lemonis said. “He’s a very well-liked kid, a very positive kid who always has a smile on his face. He’s a joy to have on the team.”

Seemingly both in the field and at the plate.

Lemonis had no doubts about Houston’s glove entering the year, but the IU coach admits wondering what Houston could do with his bat as a freshman starter.

So far, Houston has been a pleasant surprise.

Batting at the bottom of the order, he’s hitting .275 and leads the team in triples (two) and is third in walks (17) and on-base percentage (.383).

Lemonis maintains that those numbers might be even better if not for the short slump Houston endured after returning from a hamstring injury in March.

“The depth of our lineup right now is one of our strengths,” Lemonis said. ‘He also has the ability to steal. He’s coming back. He was running really good until he had the hamstring injury. He’s back running and feeling good, so I think that’s a big piece.”

And really, everything Houston does at the plate seems an added bonus to what he gives the Hoosiers in the field.

Alongside second baseman Tony Butler, who last year became the first IU player to earn a Rawlings Gold Glove award, Houston helps ensure the Hoosiers are strong up the middle.

In that regard, Indiana has been fortunate with underclassmen in recent seasons. Last year, Ryan Fineman established himself as IU’s starting catcher, finishing the season as an All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection.

“We usually joke in the fall that freshmen really can’t play short, or freshmen can’t catch because it’s really hard on them,” Lemonis said. “But these kids have come in with a maturity level that’s really high.”

Entering the season, Houston was tabbed by D1Baseball.com as the Big Ten’s Preseason Freshman of the Year.

And Houston, a natural at his position, has done little to disappoint.

“Coming in, I wasn’t always sure what type of role I would play,” he said, “but if anything, I was sure I was ready to fit in.”

One comment

  1. I’m surprised the #11 overall prospect would sign up for three years of college ball.

    Good for him.

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