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Ex-Norwell shortstop signs Padres contract


– Former Norwell baseball player Josh VanMeter signed with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday.

The shortstop, who was drafted in the fifth round with the 148th overall pick, got a $308,000 signing bonus from the Padres. He will probably head to the Arizona League Padres for a rookie league stint, and from there, a stop in Fort Wayne – with the Low-A affiliate TinCaps – is a possibility.

Padres scout Mark Conner, who was the lead evaluator on VanMeter, said San Diego drafted the former Illinois State commit because of his approach at the plate and his flexibility as a fielder. “An advanced high school bat is always alluring,” said Conner, who was the Padres’ 2010 Scout of the Year. “He has good hand-eye (coordination), has real nice strength in the body.”

For San Diego, those are big positives. And the organization likes getting guys into the system early so there are fewer bad habits to break, Conner said.

Some extra experience with a wood bat, pro-level arms and the professional baseball lifestyle won’t hurt VanMeter, either.

“His development is going to be based on his aptitude to the pro game,” Conner said. “If you look at his batting, he doesn’t strike out much. He knows how to get his pitch.”

VanMeter batted nearly .450 in his senior season, and while the Padres aren’t looking at him as a pitching prospect, he had a 14-1 record for the Knights and a 1.39 ERA.

VanMeter’s batting skills are just too valuable to toss aside. His competitive nature adds value, too.

“He is the best baseball player in the state in my mind,” Norwell coach Andy McClain told The Journal Gazette after VanMeter’s complete game in a state championship victory June 14. “He got drafted as a shortstop, but he has been tremendous on the mound because of his heart and desire.”