Staff Photo: John Bohn Austin Meadows is the Daily Post's baseball player of the year. The Grayson High School graduate has been drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball.
LOGANVILLE -- For the time being, Austin Meadows is experiencing the calm before the storm -- or rather, the calm between storms.
The now former Grayson center fielder has enjoyed some down time while awaiting details of his first professional baseball contract to be hammered out so he can begin his career in the Pittsburgh farm system after the Pirates selected him with the No. 9 overall pick in this year's draft.
"Right now, I'm just working out and training and kind of relaxing and trying to enjoy time with my family," the 2013 Daily Post Player of the Year said earlier this week. "It was tough worrying leading up to the draft -- getting all the paperwork done for the team and all the workouts."
All that work represented the first storm Meadows had to deal with during his senior year, most of which intensified greatly as he and the Rams began their 2013 campaign.
Through all the workouts, evaluations, interviews (from both major league scouts and media) and paperwork, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound left-handed hitter went through numerous distractions that could've derailed the season of many 18-year-olds.
None of those distractions were any bigger than the hype leading up to an early March game pitting Meadows and the Rams against neighboring Loganville and its eventual first-round selection and center fielder, Clint Fraizer -- a game that attracted more than 100 scouts and had more than 1,000 fans arriving two hours before first pitch to see both take batting practice.
"It was a really cool experience playing over there at Loganville with 100-plus scouts at the game and a couple thousand fans," Meadows said. "I got mentally used to the scouts being there all (last) summer. I really got used to all the pressure.
"I've never seen that many (fans there that early watching batting practice), but honestly, I just was used to the pressure and just went out and played my game."
True, Meadows never lost his focus.
"He never got too caught up with the (draft)," Grayson head coach Jed Hixson said. "He made sure to continue to get his work in and keep doing the things he needed to do. He didn't change his routine or do anything different.
"(The process) never changed him. He had a lot of fanfare this season. There were people seeking autographs and photos and all that, and he was gracious. But even with all that, he still put up good numbers."
Indeed, Meadows lived up to the build up by leading the Rams, and all Gwinnett County players, with a .535 batting average.
In addition, he stole 17 bases, tied for second in the county, and ranked among Gwinnett's leaders with four home runs and 28 RBIs, to go along with 14 doubles, 29 runs scored and a 1.586 OPS.
And Meadows said he couldn't have accomplished those numbers without help.
"A lot of it had to do with all the support I was getting from my teammates, from my coaches, from my family," Meadows said. "They really pushed me. It was good to not really have any of the jealousy from the team from what I was going though. It was good to have the support. Really, it was the support and the hard work. It all paid off."
Considering that many of Meadows' teammates have athletic reputations of their own -- like Minnesota Twins draft choice Chris Erwin, Arizona football signee Jack Banda, college baseball signees Taylor Allum (Kennesaw State) and Korey Anderson (Western Carolina) -- they understood everything Meadows had to deal with this season.
Their collective talent also helped him deal with what could've been another negative byproduct of his reputation -- the wariness of opposing pitchers.
"One of the interesting things (about this season) was that the (pro) scouts were all interested in his power and wanted to see if he could turn on the inside pitch," Hixson said. "But very few (pitchers) would throw him inside. So, instead of trying to turn on (outside pitches) anyway, he'd go the other way.
"He was willing to double into the (left-center) gap instead of swinging for the fences and trying to show the scouts what they wanted to see. He did what the team needed him to do."
While Meadows and his teammates did enough to win 19 games and advance to the Class AAAAAA state playoffs, the only disappointment with this season was the way it ended -- a three-game loss to eventual state runner-up Roswell in the first round.
Still, he said the experience of this season, and career, with his teammates is something he will remember as Grayson's large senior class goes its separate ways, with several hoping to make their marks on the next level.
"It's going to take some getting used to," Meadows said. "We made such a bond together playing throughout (last) summer. ... It's going to be tough, but we'll be able to keep in touch with each other throughout our ... careers. It's going to be interesting to see what we all do."