Reese Havens' days as a baseball player are over. But you will still find him on the field where his big-league dream began.
Havens, who played for Bishop England and the University of South Carolina before being drafted in the first round by the New York Mets in 2008, will help out with the Bishops' baseball program this spring after recently retiring from professional baseball. You probably won't find him wearing a Bishop England baseball uniform or coaching a base when practice starts Monday, but he will be behind the scenes, working with players to improve their game and giving them advice only a former first-round pick could gather during a career that was full on promise but cut short by injuries.
Havens said helping his former coach Mike Darnell and the team make a bid for their sixth state championship in 12 years is a good way to show appreciation for a program that he helped establish as one of the best in the state.
"The opportunity to play at a good school with a great program was a great experience," said the 27-year-old Havens, who grew up on Sullivan's Island. "I was surrounded by really, really good people at Bishop England."
That included Darnell, who returned to the school three years ago after a brief stint at Cardinal Newman in Columbia. Havens was the star of the Bishop England team that won a state title in 2005.
"Coach Darnell, he had a huge impact on me as a person and a player," Havens said. "His strength and conditioning program and knowledge of the game helped me immensely. He's one of the many who helped me along the way, and the BE people were definitely part of the puzzle as far as baseball is concerned. This gives me a chance to help out and work with kids."
Havens played four years at Bishop England and was one of 36 players nationwide to play in the '05 national high school all-star game after he batted .530 with five homers and 48 RBIs. Many considered him a first-round pick out of high school, but he opted to go the college rout. Still, the Colorado Rockies drafted him in the 29th round of the '05 draft.
Havens and former Stratford slugger Justin Smoak shared the Gatorade high school state player of the year honors in '05. Both went on to have All-America careers at USC. Smoak has showed potential as a first baseman for the Seattle Mariners, but Havens' pro career was hampered by injuries soon after it was launched.
Havens, 6-1, 195, displayed good bat control and had power for a middle infielder at USC, and was the 22nd pick overall in the 2008 draft, but never had a plate appearance in the big leagues.
He tallied only 97 plate appearances at Class A Brooklyn in 2008 because of elbow and groin injuries.
In 2009, Havens had more than 400 plate appearances for the only time in his career, hitting .247 with 14 homers at Brooklyn.
In 2010, Havens underwent surgery for "rib-tip syndrome" but rebounded the following season at Class AA Binghamton where he hit .289 despite battling injuries.
Last spring Havens was removed from the Mets'40-man roster and sent to Class AAA Las Vegas where he batted only .237.
Havens' six years in professional baseball ended with a .252 batting average in 345 games with 43 home runs and 157 RBIs.
During his career, Havens battled injuries to his elbow, groin, oblique, ribs and back.
"For every player, sooner of later there comes a point and now was my time," Havens said. "The injuries have bothered me over the winter, so the writing was on the wall. I knew I wasn't going to be ready for spring training."
Havens plans to return to school and complete his degree. He's undecided on where he will attend college and said he has "no idea" what he will be doing in five years.
But for now, Havens is at home on the diamond where he shone as a teenager.
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