It is said that hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do in sports.
Hard to argue.
If you did want to argue, though, you would not have to look far to do it.
In fact, you could stay in the same sport.
Because fielding is not all that easy, either considering split-second decisions can be the difference between making a routine play, muddying it up with an error or worse yet prohibiting your range from even a chance at the play.
In the exact moment that the bat strikes the ball, your mind and body work to send your body into action. Those reactions are the combination of instincts, intelligence and athletic ability.
And they are what make all the difference.
They are what separate an ordinary defensive player to elite status.
To the golden level.
With that being said, I proudly present my 6th annual High School Baseball Gold Glove award-winners.
Aurora, senior center fielder
Notable Statistics: 1.000 fielding percentage.
Coach Trent Dalton: “Ryan has saved five-plus runs on diving catches and has not allowed many balls to fall when hit in his range, which has allowed pitchers to get out of tough situations. He has the ability to track down fly balls hit in the gaps that are thought to be hits at the moment of contact. Ryan is, arguably, the best outfielder I have seen thus far, and I would consider him to be the best in the conference and one of the best throughout the state.”
Field, junior catcher/utility
Notable Statistics: .954 fielding percentage, 3 base-runners caught stealing.
Coach Joe Peterson: “Braxton does so much for us defensively. He has caught 48 innings, as well as played multiple other positions. He is a guy that is in our pitching rotation, he is a good catcher and handles our pitchers incredibly well, and he can also play middle infield and outfield. He hits in the 2-hole for us and is hitting .379. To be able to do all that for us takes a special player.”
Garfield, senior center fielder
Coach Mike Paes: “Anthony has had one error in the last two years. He is a rock in center field and seems to get to every ball hit. He is a great team-first player, who truly cares about all aspects of the game. Having him in center field has been a blessing the last four years and always puts my mind at ease when a ball is hit in his direction.”
Kent Roosevelt, senior first baseman
Notable Statistics: .982 fielding percentage, 114 total chances, 14 assists, 9 double plays, 98 putouts.
Coach Mike Haney: “In a long line of great Rough Riders first basemen, Jared might be the smoothest. Our infield coach Ron Spears equates watching Jared play defense to listening to the finest jazz music. He’s always smooth and in total control. He single-handedly takes our infield defense to another level with his glove work and athleticism around the bag. The only thing more astonishing is watching him control the running game from the mound. His left-handed pickoff moves can make opponents go station to station, earning every base.”
Mogadore, senior middle infield
Coach Steve Lutz: “John has developed into a smooth fielder. He has excellent range and has a quick transfer from fielding to throwing. He has good footwork when turning double-plays and has a strong arm. In reality, John can play any position on the field, but most importantly, John is a team-first player who has become the team leader.”
Ravenna, junior center fielder
Notable Statistics: 1.000 fielding percentage, 26 putouts, 2 assists.
Coach Steven Hustack: “E-Man is exactly what you look for in a player and more importantly as a person. He goes about things the right way. He is coachable, motivated to do well and a team-first guy. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Rootstown, senior second base
Notable Statistics: .974 fielding percentage, just 2 errors in his last 35 games.
Coach Keith Waesch: “Blake is almost automatic when a ball is hit his way at second base. He has good range and has anchored the right side of our infield for the past two seasons. He also led our team in batting average a year ago, which makes him a complete player. While Blake’s stats are very impressive, he is an even better person.”
Southeast, senior shortstop
Coach Lee Lovejoy: “Thomas uses his size and athleticism to command and cover a lot of ground up the middle. He is an all-around player and earned All-PTC last season as a centerfielder.”
Streetsboro, senior pitcher
Notable Statistics: 0.97 earned-run average, 4-1 pitching record, 41 strikeouts in 29 innings.
Coach Chris Scisciani: “Mikey is pitching great this year, and he is a big part of our success. His only loss this season was to Cloverleaf, which is undefeated in the league. We are very proud of Mike, and he has worked tremendously hard to be successful.”
Waterloo, senior catcher
Coach Joe Perretta: “Mason is the epitome of toughness. He plays the most demanding position on the field, and he has started every game behind the plate for the past two seasons. He has shown tremendous growth at the position and has become one of the top catchers in our conference. His leadership and defensive ability are key pillars to our program.”
Windham, junior utility
Coach Jake Eye: “Chase is very athletic and has great hands and awareness. He is capable of playing any position. He is primarily a middle infielder, but lately has been doing a lot of catching. He has not played the position for a couple years, but he has not missed a beat. He turned a fantastic unassisted, inning-ending double-play against Bristol that ultimately helped us win the game.”
This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Presenting the Portage County baseball Gold Glove Awards