THE BEE'S OUTSTANDING BASEBALL HITTER OF THE YEAR: JAKE GATEWOOD
One of Central Section's most-feared hitters has taken school record-tying career home run total (12), Tri-River Athletic Conference Silver Slugger Award, 77 team wins, a Division I title and reported $1.83 million signing bonus to the Milwaukee Brewers organization, which selected him 41st overall in Major League Baseball's June amateur draft. This season, his .387 overall average was highlighted by a .447 mark in the TRAC, the state's best league this year. The 33-5 Cougars (No. 1), Buchanan (No. 6), Clovis North (No. 16) and Clovis West (No. 27) were all ranked in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. It's generally believed that the 6-foot-5, 195-pounder would have hit 10 to 15 more career home runs had he played his home games virtually anywhere else in the section other than cavernous Lloyd Merriman Field.
•He said it:
"It could have been a zoo this year and Jake could have easily become self-centered with all the professional attention he attracted, but he made it fun. It was not uncommon to have 50 scouts at our games. I thought he performed about as well as he could under the circumstances. I compare him to a right-handed Darryl Strawberry -- skinny, tall and when he extended his arms, look out, that ball screamed. He has more power than any kid I've seen, just an extreme talent, really." - Cougars coach James Patrick