0

Parkview's Olson taking a different approach to step up his game

Given Matt Olson's performance throughout his high school baseball career, one might think he might want to simply stay the course heading into his senior season.

And why not?

When you've put up numbers like he has throughout his two seasons with the Panthers -- a career batting average well over .400, 31 home runs and 105 RBIs, plus a 15-5 record with a 3.68 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 125 innings -- why change things?

And he's already caught the attention of college coaches -- especially at SEC power Vanderbilt, where he's signed a scholarship to play -- and professional scouts -- he's considered a prime candidate to be taken in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in June.

Yet, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound first baseman/right-handed pitcher decided to take a different approach during his offseason training regimen this past fall.

And for a very good reason.

"I needed a little bit of a break," Olson admitted. "I played really deep into summer camp. ... So, I kind of took some time off (from playing fall ball) and just focused on getting my body ready physically (for this season). I ended up hitting the weight room. ... Physical conditioning has a lot to do with how deep we went (in the state playoffs last year).

"And one of the biggest weaknesses was my speed. I kind of wanted to get more agile and have more speed and get stronger."

Having improved his fitness and recharged his batteries, the 2011 Daily Post's Co-Player of the Year seems ready to end his high school career with a bang, and help the Panthers in their defense of their Class AAAAA state championship.

Parkview coach Chan Brown also believes Olson took the right approach with his offseason training.

It's a pattern he's noticed from his senior ever since he came up in the Parkview program.

"He has instincts," Brown said of Olson. "Those are things you can't teach. ... He's a true baseball player. He has the make up (of a ball player) emotionally. He has he make up physically. ... You can't teach make up."

Still, that doesn't mean he's stopped trying to learn.

And before Olson began his offseason training, he had a quite a learning experience by participating in the Under Armor All-American Baseball at Chicago's famed Wrigley Field last August.

"That was a little eye opening," Olson said. "But it was a great opportunity for me to play against some of the best players in the country."

It was also a chance to show off his skills in front of some of the best talent evaluators in the nation, which is why his one of Georgia's highest-profile high school players.

It is also why he is poised to join some of the top players in Parkview history, including current or former major leaguers like Jeff Francoeur, Clint Sammons and Jeff Keppinger, and perhaps future major leaguers like K.D. Kang, Brandon Jacobs and Zach Cone.

But that is the least of his concerns heading into the 2012 season.

"I'm just worried about Parkview and getting another state championship," Olson said. "I haven't really thought much about my personal legacy. I'd like to leave a legacy like Francoeur and those guys did in winning two state titles, and being a good player, but a better teammate."

That is what Brown says he admires most about Olson.

"From an all-around standpoint, Matt's done a great job of staying humble," Brown said. "He's very laid back -- maybe too laid back sometimes, but he can turn that switch on.

"The coolest thing about him is he's all about Parkview. And taking the baseball out of it, if my sons end up like him, I'll be a happy dad."