Five things to watch in baseball
• Catchers live here: While we featured Camas’ Austin Barr for the season preview, we hope to catch up with Union’s Clint Coulter toward the end of the season. Coulter has signed with Arizona State. Baseball America lists Coulter on its second team, pre-season All-America list. He, too, expects to be selected in June’s Major League Baseball amateur draft. The two close friends, who have played on the same club teams and often work out together, will have decisions to make: College or pro ball.
• Lofty expectations at Camas: The Papermakers are coming off back-to-back appearances in the Class 3A state semifinals, placing second in 2010 and third in 2011. Camas returns several key players from last season’s 26-1 squad.
• Thunder will make some noise: With five first-team all-leaguers returning, including Zach Torson, Ryan Johnson, and Riley O’Dell, and with Michael Rivers destroying the baseball in the early going, the Mountain View Thunder could be primed to end Camas’ recent run in the 3A Greater St. Helens League.
• Wide-open 4A GSHL: Heritage’s recent disciplinary issues have changed the “favorite” in that league. A couple of coaches say Skyview, with a bunch of young talent, is now the one to watch. But Union, Evergreen and an improved Battle Ground squad look to keep things interesting in the 4A GSHL.
• Remember this, look for that: No 4A GSHL team reached the state tournament last year. Camas finished third in the 3A state tournament, while Mountain View made it to state. Mark Morris made it to state from the 2A GSHL (and the Monarchs are loaded with returning talent). Kalama is the returning Trico League champion. The Chinooks are looking for their fifth consecutive league title.
For coach-submitted preseason reports of area teams, go to The Columbian’s high school sports blog at www.360preps.com
CAMAS — Austin Barr is almost embarrassed by his gift. Not his talent; his gift.
His talent on the baseball diamond is so well documented that he has signed a Pacific-12 Conference scholarship. His skills keep bringing professional scouts to his games, his workouts, just in case they can entice him to forgo college.
Barr has no reason to be embarrassed by his baseball ability. A senior at Camas High School and one of the best high school catchers in the state, in the country even, he has worked hard to be in this position.
The gift comes in the classroom. The gift has allowed him to carry a 4.0 grade-point average, taking Advanced Placement classes, and being accepted to Stanford University. And that gift has allowed him not to have to worry so much about school so he could work longer hours on the baseball field.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Austin Barr, with his AP classes over the years in economics, calculus, statistics, and world history to name a few, has that perfect GPA and very little stress regarding academics.
“It’s always come naturally to me. It’s not something I like to brag about. But when people say you have to take notes or you have to study, that’s not something I’ve ever had to do,” Barr said.
He can read a book and the information is stored in his brain at his ready. He can listen to a lecture and has instant recall.
Barr said he challenges himself by going beyond whatever text book he is reading. Take economics, for example.
“The connections between things, those are easy for me to see. How this affects that,” Barr said. “I enjoy going deeper and seeing the next level. There’s the surface stuff, and then what’s underneath it. I enjoy learning about that.”
He brings that excellence to the diamond. His bat is awesome, but what might separate him is his knowledge of the game, his ability to see it all from behind the plate.
“It’s like having a second coach,” Camas coach Joe Hallead said.
Barr said he can remember an opponent’s hitting tendencies just by noticing the player’s shoes when he steps in the batter’s box. That helps Barr call the next series of pitches. He also knows when to go talk to his pitcher. He might even wave off Hallead from going to the mound, to save a visit in a particular inning.
A varsity starter since his freshman year, Barr has earned that trust from his coach. Never having missed a game in his career, the Papermakers have turned into a state power with Barr in the lineup, with a second-place finish at the Class 3A state playoffs in 2010 and a third-place showing last season.
Barr is a two-time all-state player, as well.
“You knew from the first time he stepped on campus, he was going to be something special,” Hallead said. “I’m not sure we’ll ever have another Austin Barr in the program. He’s a once-in-a-coach’s-career player.”
Oh, did we mention Barr has Type 1 Diabetes? He wears an insulin pump throughout the day. While dealing with it since he was diagnosed at the age of 13, he also realized that if properly treated, the disease could not keep him from his dream.
“Quite a few major leaguers have had it,” Barr said, noting Jackie Robinson and Randy Johnson.
It has not been a problem with his baseball, other than some quick fixes here and there.
“Maybe I have to jump into the dugout and get some apple juice or Skittles when my blood sugar gets low,” he said.
It was scary at first, from that ambulance ride to the hospital, to the diagnosis, to seeing the worry on his mother’s face.
“At least I know what my charity will be when I make it to the majors,” he told his mom that day. “From then on, she was on board.”
That little pep talk to Jill Barr was a little reminiscent of a 5-year-old’s declaration to his mother.
“I told her I wanted to go to Stanford,” Austin said. “I saw on TV that they had a good baseball program.”
That was all he had at the time. As he matured, he realized how prestigious the university was, and not just for the baseball.
“As I grew up, it actually was a dream I did want,” Barr said.
He signed his letter of intent in November.
“Just to be able to achieve that, that has been the biggest goal so far in my life,” he said.
Yet the pro scouts are still circling, taking notes. Funny, they take notes on a perfect student who does not take notes. But the scouts jot down everything they see, and they take video of Barr in case they miss something.
Barr will have a decision to make this summer after the Major League Baseball amateur draft. He said it is too difficult to predict what round he will be selected. However, Barr was told that the scouts would not be following Stanford signee unless those in the organization thought they could convince him (think money) to turn professional directly out of high school.
So yeah, while Stanford was a dream, and a goal, come true, the ultimate dream is to play in the majors.
Barr will have to decide if the best path is college first or the minor leagues. Barr said he is leaving his options open.
For now, he is concentrating on one last season with the Papermakers. He has been on so many traveling teams, been a part of all-star showcases, and has played all over the country.
“There’s nothing quite like a playoff run with the guys you’ve grown up with and the guys you go to school with,” Barr said. “I’ve always looked up to the seniors before me. Now it’s my turn to be a leader.”
The Papermakers lost more than a dozen seniors from last year’s squad, which makes this team a bit of a question mark. Hallead and Barr say there is a lot of talent on the field, a bunch of guys who have waiting patiently for their time to shine.
Just because they have less experience does not mean the expectations are any different than the past couple of seasons.
“We wouldn’t be out here for anything other than to win a state championship,” Barr said. “Every guy out here is unified for that goal.”
Austin Barr is all about Camas baseball right now.
Stanford. Pro baseball. He will study those options later.
Well, maybe he won’t study them. The decision just might come naturally.