[pullquote-left]Infielders win fans at HP, college[/pullquote-left]For some youngsters growing up in the Park Cities, meeting the varsity shortstop at Highland Park High School is like shaking hands with a superhero.
You aspire to be like him, and to one day fill his shoes. And players fortunate enough to one day gain that coveted spot in the lineup have a responsibility to mentor those behind them.
It’s part of a tradition for the Scots that has seen a string of shortstops move on to Division I college baseball during the past decade or more.
“We grow up and we see the guys in front of us, watching those guys and trying to be like them,” said Jon Skidmore, who will begin his third season as the HP starting shortstop this spring. “The expectations are high for everyone.”
Skidmore already has signed to play at Baylor next year. His predecessor, Matt Milburn, is a pitcher at Wofford College in South Carolina. Before him was Ford Stainback, now at Rice. Prior standouts such as J.B. Gadd (Richmond), Alex Flink (Princeton), and Joey Hainsfurther (Baylor) also excelled at the next level. Even Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford played shortstop during his HP days.
“It’s just tradition. I was just happy that I got an opportunity to play there,” said Milburn, who was the shortstop for the Scots in 2012. “Everybody wants to be that guy. I realize now how truly blessed I was to be in that situation.”
Just as Skidmore learned the ropes from Milburn, he is trying to pass the torch to underclassmen in the HP program who might take his place in 2016.
“I learned stuff from the guys before me. They were always looking out for me and trying to help me,” said Stainback, who was HP’s shortstop in 2011 before switching to second base as a four-year starter at Rice. “There’s definitely more pressure. You definitely want to uphold that tradition.”
HP head coach Travis Yoder was an assistant when Hainsfurther started for the Scots from 2006 to 2008. He recalls how the shortstop was perceived as a hothead by some observers who didn’t see him take extra ground balls before and after practice almost every day.
“People see the talent, but they don’t always see how hard these kids work to get better,” Yoder said. “The expectation in the community for being the next guy is high. People watch our shortstops at Highland Park and that’s what they want to be.”
Skidmore has always been a shortstop growing up, and said that experience has helped him handle the expectations both in the field and at the plate.
“Other than pitcher and catcher, you’re involved in more plays than anybody else,” Skidmore said. “You’re kind of the leader of the infield. I like having that pressure.”
Notable: After being drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 2008, he was a four-year starter for Baylor.
Notable: He started for four years for the Tigers, mostly at third base, and hit one home run in 2010.
Notable: He was a part-time infielder and catcher for the Spiders whose best season came in 2011.
Notable: So far, he has played in 173 games and hit .280 in three seasons for Rice, mostly at second base.
Notable: He has transitioned to a full-time pitcher in college and is projected as Wofford’s top starter this spring.