James Hinson and family

Smoky Mountain senior James Hinson (second from left), has signed to play baseball for Catawba Valley Community College. With him are, from left: Josh Williams, his brother; Shane Williams, his father; and Kim Williams, his mother.

Smoky Mountain senior all-conference pitcher/first baseman James Hinson has signed to play baseball for Catawba Valley Community College.

“I’ve been playing showcase travel ball through the summer for four or five years,” Hinson said. “This past summer I got quite a few invites to camps.”

He took a visit to CVCC, met with members of the coaching staff and decided to commit shortly thereafter.

“It’s a two-year program so I can play two years and transfer to another school to play baseball,” Hinson said. “Their coaching staff is really great. They send a lot of their players to the next level.”

Hinson said he also considered Lenoir-Rhyne, Carson-Newman and Newberry.

“Every since I was little I knew I wanted to play at the highest level I possibly could,” Hinson said.” It’s been a goal for a long time.

“It’s really humbling to say the least,” he said of signing to play in college. “I finally hit the finish line so to speak, but the next journey has just started. There are going to be some of the best baseball players from around the Southeast there. It’s going to push me to become a better player.”

While the left-hander is one of the Mustangs’ pitchers, he expects to play in the field at Catawba Valley.

“I’m going as a position player at first base and swing the bat a little bit too,” he said.

Before heading to college, Hinson is looking forward to his senior season of high school baseball.

“It’s the last one,” he said. “A lot of my teammates are already in the weight room. We’ve made some pretty good runs in my years in high school. We want to go to the state championship series. When we lost last year, it left a bad taste in our mouths.”

He said he has benefited from playing for SM Coach Jeremy Ellenburg and assistant coach Derek Hawk.

“Coach Ellenburg and Coach Hawk have helped me along this journey,” Hinson said. “I think we’re one of the hardest-working teams in Western North Carolina. That really helped me take things to the next level. Our motto is ‘practice like you play,’ and that’s my attitude toward life.”

“I think James will do great in college,” Ellenburg said. “He understands what it takes to play baseball. He’s willing to put in the work to do it. We’re doing some optional workouts, and he is there every day. He asked me all the time to leave the batting cage unlocked so he can hit. It’s something he’s passionate about. College sports are a lot different from high school with the time commitment.”

The coach said Hinson has been an important part of the program the past three years.

“James has been a tremendous asset to our program,” Ellenburg said. “I brought him up to varsity as a sophomore. He earned a starting spot and led the team in hitting. He’s probably one of the best bunters on the team. He is solid at first base. As a pitcher he’s going to throw strikes. He’s going to do whatever he needs to do to help the team.”

“We are excited to bring James into our program,” CVCC Coach Paul Rozzelle said. “We know he is a competitor, and his ability to provide some left-handed power is something all coaches are looking for. He will have a chance to compete at first base. We love his attitude and demeanor and are excited to welcome him to the family.”