0

All-American game big start for seniors Meadows, Hart

If the recent past is any reliable indicator, tonight's 2012 Perfect Game All-American Classic all-star baseball game could be the beginning of a huge senior year for a pair of Gwinnett County seniors.

Outfielders Austin Meadows of Grayson and Josh Hart of two-time defending state champion Parkview will be among five Georgians dotting the East squad at the national spotlight game, which gets under way at Petco Park in San Diego at 9 p.m.

This time last year, Daily Post Pitcher of the Year Lucas Sims of Brookwood and two-time Daily Post Player of the Year Matt Olson of Parkview each played in national all-star games.

The two not only wound up meeting in the Class AAAAA state championship series with their respective teams -- won by Olson, Hart and the Panthers -- but also wound up being selected on the opening night of the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

"It is definitely a great experience," said Meadows, a first-team All-County selection after hitting .390 with four home runs, 28 RBIs, 19 stolen bases and a 1.100 OPS in helping the Rams to the Class AAAAA state semifinals this past spring. "All my hard work has paid off to this point. I've still got a long way to go, but if I keep my head straight (this weekend) can (be an omen of good things to come)."

This is actually the first of two all-star weekends for Meadows, who will also travel to Chicago next weekend to take part in the 2012 Under Armour All-American Game on Thursday at Wrigley Field, a rare feat for even the top players in the nation.

"I feel very blessed just go out and play to the game," Meadows said. "To play (them) on big-league fields makes it even better."

This isn't Meadows' first exposure on nationwide stage, as the 6-foot-3, 200-pound centerfielder had a record-setting fall with Team USA's 16-and-under national team at the IBAF U16 World Championships last year.

It also won't be the first major exposure for Hart, who played in last year's Perfect Game's showcase event in San Diego for rising juniors.

And the 6-2, 180-pound centerfielder, who was also a first-team All-County selection by the Daily Post this past spring, says playing in front of a national television audience in a major league ballpark is exciting, he is taking a business-like approach to it.

"Being picked to play against the top dogs in the country, you've got to have a good feel good about that," said Hart, who hit .373 with two homers, 19 RBIs, 30 stolen bases and 44 runs scored this past spring. "It's something to be proud of, but I've just got to stay focused. ... It's just another day at work."

Hart and Meadows are also part of an impressive Georgia contingent that also includes a couple of players from neighboring counties in Winder-Barrow third baseman Travis Demeritte and outfielder Clint Frazier, who helped Loganville to the Class AAAA state title this past spring. Frazier will also join Meadows in the Under Armour game next weekend.

"That should tell you how good Georgia competition is," said Hart of the state contingent, which also includes Crisp County right-handed pitcher Robert Tyler. "It's pretty cool because this summer, I saw those guys almost every day (in summer travel ball)."