Jeff Babbitt is a human highlight reel. All he needs is a frisbee.
There’s an almost three-minute long video circulating of Babbitt that makes the case for him to be named the best player in college ultimate frisbee. In it, Babbitt is seen jetting past defenders for leaping one-handed catches on offense and laying out horizontally to bat down passes on defense.
“Isn’t that ridiculous?” UMass coach Tiina Booth said of cumulative display of Babbitt’s work.
Babbitt, who graduated from UMass this May, is in the running for The Callahan Award, given to college ultimate’s most valuable player. But his accolades aren’t limited to individual efforts like his leaping grabs and diving blocks. The kinesiology major has helped lead UMass’s club frisbee team, Zoodisc, to a 25-2 record. They’re currently ranked No. 1 in the country as they enter the Division-I National Championship tournament, comprised of North America’s top 20 college teams.
Babbitt plays with a huge catching and blocking radius, so it’s surprising to some that he’s 6-foot-1.
“I get called 6-foot-5 a lot. I’m not that tall,” Babbitt said on Tuesday. “I have pretty good springs in my legs, and I’m able to get pretty far in my layouts and get pretty high on my vertical jump. I guess it looks like I’m taller than I am.”
While college ultimate doesn’t draw a lot of spectators, his Zoodisc teammates loudly appreciate his highlight-reel plays on the field.
“Everyone goes wild on the sidelines. Teammates go wild,” Babbitt said. “It’s a good feeling. It’s definitely my favorite thing to do in the game.”
After making a big play, Babbitt doesn’t beat his chest or spike the frisbee, as some players do to celebrate a goal. For the most part, he’s a mild mannered player. But if a teammate makes a big play, it’s a different story entirely.
“He goes crazy when one someone he’s been teammates with for years finally gets a layout [block],” Booth said Tuesday. “That pumps him up more than anything. He kind of expects those plays of himself — and frankly we expect it of him, too.”
Babbitt coaches Northampton High School’s frisbee team, and acts as a counselor at Booth’s frisbee camp in the summers. As a team captain for UMass, Babbitt has helped many of the younger players on the team learn to throw a frisbee, and Booth thinks that’s part of why he gets so excited when they make big plays. That development of young players has been integral to deepening the UMass roster in their run for a national championship.
Babbitt noted that there’s so much strength and depth among teams in the nationals tournament, which runs from May 27 to May 30 in Raleigh, North Carolina. But he and Booth agreed that UMass deserved the top spot. And they’re not feeling the pressure that comes with being the best team in the nation.
“I prefer to be the No. 1 seed going into a tournament, no matter what the tournament is,” Booth said. “We worked really hard. Making the semis or finals in every tournament we were in. In many ways, it’s just the natural outcome.”