With the Tennessee baseball season off to a fast start, many new faces have jumped right into their first game experiences of their college careers.
One of those freshmen has seen the playing field since day one. Starting shortstop A.J. Simcox has hit near the top of the lineup for the Vols all season.
"It's a blessing," Simcox said about being able to come in right away and earn a starting spot. "I came in here trying to earn a spot to play and with a lot of hope. I came in not knowing exactly what to expect but it's been a lot of fun."
Since arriving on campus he has caught his teammates and coaches eyes not only by his character but also with his hitting and defensive abilities.
Simcox, who was the top prospect in Tennessee high schools, has filled in very nicely for the spot vacated by graduated senior Zach Osborne.
"I don't think we could fill the loss of Zach with anyone better than A.J.," second year head coach Dave Serrano said. "He's gotten off to a little bit of a slow start offensively but has played tremendous defense and is in the making of ending up being a superstar in the end of his career."
For the former Farragut High School standout, the choice to attend college and play for Tennessee was simple, despite being selected in the 32nd round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Colorado Rockies.
"Everybody knew I was going to come to school here," Simcox said. "Me and my family put it out there not to draft me because I was going to school."
In fact, there was no other school on his list of colleges to play baseball. The decision was an easy one given that his father, Larry, was a UT assistant baseball coach from 1991-1997.
"It was really fun," he said about being able to come with his dad to the ballpark when he was growing up. "You got to see a lot of things a normal kid wouldn't. You get to learn a lot about the game and I learned from a lot of great players. They have some guys in the major leagues that I still talk to from time to time. It was really cool to pick up those things growing up."
Simcox was even more accustomed to wearing the Tennessee baseball uniform early on, as he also once was a UT batboy.
Being the sure-handed shortstop he has been for the Vols so far this season, it isn't a surprise that one of his favorite baseball players growing up was New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter.
"I grew up a huge Jeter fan like most of my generation did," he said. "It was a big influence on me. Chris Burke, who played here from '99-01, was also a huge influence on me wanting to be a great shortstop."
Just like it is for any freshman athlete, the constant grind of focusing and playing a sport can sometimes be a tough task to handle so in his spare time Simcox likes to hang out with friends and family.
"I think I'm more reserved," he said. "On days off I either hangout with the guys or go home and chill with family and get a nice home cooked meal."
One thing someone may not know about the 6-foot 3-inch shortstop for the Vols is that he also considers himself a juggling master.
While he may like to clown around with his hidden skill off the baseball diamond, he is all about business when out on the field in a game or practice. His coach believes that he can be a player that will progress into a leader in his years to come.
"There aren't many better people out there than him," Serrano said. "He does a lot of things right. He's good in school he's good off the field, and he'll end up being a leader of this program."