FORT WAYNE – As a fifth-round pick in the major league baseball draft, Norwell’s Josh VanMeter would be a shoo-in for most awards given as the top high school baseball player in the state. Most years that might be the case, but probably not in 2013.
The state’s Player of the Year Award is given by the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association after a vote of the state’s coaches and the winner will be announced tonight as part of the banquet for the North-South All-Star series.
According to IHSBCA executive director Brian Abbott, the top three candidates are VanMeter, New Castle’s Trey Ball and Northfield’s Ryan Keaffaber. Last year’s winner was former South Side standout Will Coursen-Carr, who pitches for Indiana University.
VanMeter was picked by the San Diego Padres and is playing with the Arizona League Padres in rookie ball. In 13 games, VanMeter is hitting .217 in 46 at-bats with eight runs scored and two RBI.
He has a .308 on-base percentage and a .239 slugging percentage.
VanMeter wasn’t the highest draft pick among state high school players.
Ball was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the first round. Keaffaber went undrafted.
(Ball) was announced as the Gatorade Player of the Year, but maybe there will be some kind of miracle, said Norwell coach Andy McClain, who will be an assistant coach for the North this weekend. To me, let’s just call it the highest draft pick award then. If you are going to call it the best baseball player in the state award, let’s look at the big picture.
VanMeter’s big picture includes leading the Knights to the Class 3A state championship last month, including a 2-1 win in the state title game against top-ranked Jasper. VanMeter, who was drafted as an infielder, gave up just three hits and scored both runs at Victory Field.
I have been able to coach 20-plus years, and (VanMeter) is easily the best player I have ever coached, said McClain, who was in his first year at Norwell last season. He has a combination of professional baseball skill, but add to that with his work ethic and just his sheer competitive will. He was drafted as a shortstop and infielder, and he basically pitched us to a state championship. He won both games of the regional, the semistate and the state finals just because he is so competitive. He has a nice combination there. All three of those things make him a special player.
Despite his pitching prowess, VanMeter’s baseball future has pretty much always been as an infielder.
He has a nice live arm and is legitimately in the upper 80s with his fastball, McClain said. That’s natural athletic skill. You look at him and physically you are not going to go wow when you look at him. We used to joke during the season that he might be as much of a pitching prospect as other areas. He was drafted on his ability but add to that his work ethic and competitive desire. I have a lot of confidence he will be able to accomplish his goals.
VanMeter finished in the top three for another award recently, the MaxPreps Medium Schools national baseball high school player of the year, losing out to San Diego’s Dominic Smith, another first-round draft pick.