Westover baseball star Josh Black, center, signs with Georgia Southern on Wednesday. He is joined by, from left, Patriots coach Kevin Fretwell; father, Eulas; mother, Nicole; and brother, Nick Streeter. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Westover’s Josh Black hated the outfield grass.
He hated the way it felt, the way it looked, the way it seemed to beckon him.
“I didn’t like the grass and all that running,” Black said. “I just didn’t think the outfield was meant for me.”
Turns out, Black and the outfield were made for each other.
Black moved from the infield to the outfield his sophomore year with the Patriots and made a name for himself in center field — a name that he signed to a full-ride scholarship to Georgia Southern on Wednesday in the Westover media center.
“He’s probably the best baseball player to come through the school,” Westover coach Kevin Fretwell said. “And it’s no exaggeration to say that he is one of the best centerfielders in the state in all classifications.”
Black has spent the last three years tracking down seemingly uncatchable balls and leaving both his coach and his teammates speechless, but the senior has also excelled at the plate with his .636 batting average and .752 slugging percentage this year.
He is also a key pitcher for the Patriots and is often called on to close games with a strikeout-per-inning ratio of 1.7. But it’s his fielding that made him a lock to sign a Division I scholarship.
“When you have coaches from other teams stand up and applaud a catch, that’s pretty special,” Fretwell said. “I would see the reaction of the kids in the dugout, and I would say, ‘Did he seriously just catch that?’ He covers two-thirds of the outfield, not just his one-third.”
For Black, there’s never a ball that he doesn’t think he can catch.
“I just have to go get it,” he said. “It’s my job when I am out there in the outfield. If it’s in the air, I just have to get it no matter where it is. That’s why I play outfield.”
And it’s where he will play for a Georgia Southern team that has been ranked as high as 22nd in the nation this season.
“I chose Georgia Southern because of the coaches,” said Black, who has a 3.0 GPA at Westover and will major in either sports medicine or computer science at GSU. “I saw while they were coaching the guys on the field that everybody was disciplined, and they treat all the kids on the team like their own.”
Fretwell believes Black’s baseball career won’t end at Georgia Southern.
“I can see him going beyond the college level,” Fretwell said. “If he stays on track, stays focused and stays out of trouble, he can go beyond college. And I’m pretty sure he will do all that.”