Not once, not twice, but seven times this season, Jason Shirley smacked one out of the park for the Destin Marlin baseball team.
Not only did the 6-foot, 180-pound eighth grader lead the team in home run shots, but he set a record for the best turn at bat for a Marlin in a single season. He finished the season with a .750 batting average.
"I like hitting," Shirley said. "I like to see how far the ball goes when you hit it."
His longest knock ever was about 360 or 370 feet, he said
Over the years, there have been a couple of Marlins who have batted more than .500, but with a lot fewer turns at bat, Destin Coach Brian McDaniel told The Log.
But hitting is Shirley's thing.
The most home runs he's ever hit in a season was a dozen playing for a 12U travel ball club.
For the Marlins this year, Shirley had 22 hits in 30 at bats. He had 37 plate appearances and reached base safely 31 times for a .838 on base percentage.
Included in the 13-year-old’s 22 hits were 14 singles, two doubles, seven homers, 23 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.
Shirley had only one strike out recorded in the books.
"That's my motto: Don't strike out," Shirley said. "I'd rather hit a little blooper to the pitcher, than strike out."
When he steps into the batters box, "I usually look for the first pitch fast ball … it's usually outside or down the middle, because they don't usually pitch it inside to me," Shirley said.
But the pitch he likes to hit is a four seam.
"It's just straight and you can get under the ball and it just flies," he said.
And when it soars out of the park, "It feels pretty good," Shirley said. "You get to just trot around the bases."
Shirley came up through the ranks of the Destin Little League Association, with his first taste coming on the Tee-ball field.
"I was about three or four, but I wasn't too good then," he said with a laugh.
He worked his way through the minor and majors and picked up playing travel ball when he was 10. He's played with the Bulls, Longhorns and now with the Central Florida Gators.
Although he played with Destin Middle as a fifth grader, he sat out a couple of years because of the busy schedule of travel ball. Last year he participated in track and field for the Marlins, but this year he stepped back onto the diamond and left his mark.
After middle school, Shirley plans to try out for the Golden Eagles of Niceville baseball team and maybe even one day play for a D1 college.
"But I'm not that good yet," he said.
For now his focus is just to get a hit.
"I just try to make contact with it and see where it goes — and hustle out to the base," he said.