0

Grayson's Meadows deals with the attention of being top draft prospect

Grayson's Austin Meadows — Photo Illustration: Brendan Sullivan and Nicole Puckett

Grayson's Austin Meadows — Photo Illustration: Brendan Sullivan and Nicole Puckett

It's February and an athlete at Grayson High School listed as the top high school senior in the nation in his sport has an appointment with a major sports team to talk about the possibility of him playing for said team in the future.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

That's not surprising considering Robert Nkemdiche just ended years of speculation with his announcement that he would sign a National Letter of Intent to play college football at the University of Mississippi about a week and a half ago.

But this particularly appointment didn't involve the Rams' star defensive lineman.

Instead, it was Grayson baseball standout Austin Meadows speaking with representatives of the Los Angeles Dodgers via Skype earlier this week.

It was one of countless conversations the 6-foot-3, 205-pound outfielder has had with representatives from big-league teams over the past year, which has accompanied him being named the top high school prospect in this year's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by Baseball America magazine.

"(Representatives from) all 30 (MLB) teams have visited the house," Meadows said. "It's pretty neat to be considered up there (among the nation's top draft prospects). It sounds good, but I try not to get caught up with it."

That's easy to say, but when all 30 major league franchises have show interest in you and nearly every draft publication projects you to be a first night selection.

But despite all the attention from the teams and interview requests from the media, Grayson baseball coach Jed Hixscon insists Meadows remains the same player and same person he's been throughout his high school career.

"He's handled it very well," Hixson said. "I don't think (he's changed). His teammates rag on him as much as anyone else. It's all good-natured the way you always have in teams. They've all had fun with it."

The process hasn't always been fun. All the notoriety that has come his way has also come with adjustments to make as opposing pitchers changed the way they pitched to Meadows.

And those adjustments weren't always easy to make.

"He struggled a little early (last season), to be honest," Hixson said. "Everybody knew about him and started pitching around him. And then later, they started pitching to him again, and it took him a while to readjust. But he hit his stride during the playoffs."

Indeed, Meadows had a strong finish to Grayson's season last spring, winding up with a .390 average with four home runs, 28 RBIs, 33 runs scored and 19 stolen bases in helping the Rams advance to the Class AAAAA state semifinals for the first time in school history.

And he did it not by trying to carry the team by himself, instead relying on a talented set of teammates, most of whom return to try to make another deep postseason run.

"Our team is very dynamic," Meadows said. "And we've got good chemistry since we've been playing together since we were little. We're just looking for a chance to win the state title (this year)."

If his family and baseball teammates weren't enough to keep Meadows grounded and show him support in dealing with the national spotlight, than his there's always his senior classmate Nkemdiche, who can certainly relate to what he's been going through.

The two have known each other for several years as football teammates until Meadows gave up the game for his senior season.

And though they haven't talked much about their situations, Meadows says he's tried to approach his draft situation the same way Nkemdiche dealt with his recruiting process.

"It's cool to see (Nkemdiche) excel," Meadows said. "I played football with him since about sixth grade, so we've known each other for a while. We haven't really talked about it, but we both kind of go out and do our thing. We just go out and play our games. The other stuff will take care of itself."

That's exactly the attitude Meadows says he and his teammates will approach this upcoming season in the same manner -- by simply focusing on the task at hand.

It's an approach he's learned while playing in front of major league scouts at national showcases and all-star games like the Perfect Game All-American Classic at San Diego's Petco Park and the Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

It also helps that he has a college baseball scholarship waiting for him at Clemson no matter what happens with the draft in June.

"That first showcase I played in was in Minnesota (in the summer of 2011)," Meadows said. "That's when it kind of hit me. But now, when I look up and see hundreds of scouts in the stands, it's nothing major.

"Right now, I'm just (concerned) with my senior year, going out and playing with my friends and going out with a bang by trying to win a state championship."