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Rockwood’s Tavin Napier has worked hard over the years to be the best baseball player possible.
His hard work paid off as he was named the District 3-A Player of the Year this season, and he was recently named to the Tennessee Baseball Report and Tennessee Sports Writers Association All-State teams.
The Tiger catcher received an even bigger award last Wednesday when he signed scholarship papers to play for Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens.
“I’m really happy,” Napier said after signing with the Bulldogs. “I’m real excited to have the opportunity to continue my baseball career.
“I like that Tennessee Wesleyan is a small school that has good academics. I won’t have to be in classes with 100 people.”
“I’m happy anytime one of out kids has a chance to keep playing,” Tiger head coach Jake Witter added. “It’s a tremendous achievement for him. This is something he’s worked extremely hard for, not just with us but in the summers as well.”
One look at Napier’s offensive numbers and it’s easy to see why he’s a college prospect. He was second in the state in batting average (.581), fourth in RBIs (58), fifth in hits (61) and first in triples (7).
“His high school stats are outrageous,” Tennessee Wesleyan head coach Mike McCracken said. “He’s a big physical kid that’s very versatile and athletic. We like him at catcher, but feel he can play multiple positions for us. We think he can have a very good college career.”
“Tavin’s biggest attribute is his ability to hit the baseball,” Witter added. “He had a tremendous year for us. He carried us all year long at the plate. He has plenty of power, but he’s also very athletic for a big kid. He runs extremely well.”
Napier says there is no magic formula for his offensive production, simply hard work and learning from others.
“I listen,” he said. “I’m always trying to improve myself and learn. What I’ve learned is that you can’t take days off. You have to work and work to get better. I take hacks every day. It’s all about repetition and doing the little things right.”
Napier also has an uncanny ability of making big plays when his team needs it the most. A perfect example would be his two-out grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning that led the Tigers to a 10-7 victory over Grace Christian Academy in the Region 2-A Championship Game.
“I want the bat in my hands in those situations,” he said. If we need a big play, I want to do it, I have a go get it attitude.”
While Napier is used to making big plays and being a leader, Tennessee Wesleyan is a power in the NAIA and usually don’t rely heavily on freshmen. The Bulldogs won the NAIA National Championship in 2012 and finished the season raked 12th last season.
“We’ve got a top 10 program and that usually allows new guys to come in and get their feet wet,” McCracken said. “It’s usually a year or two before we expect a new guy to be an every day play.
“But we think Tavin is going to be a really good player for us. The key for him is to come into practice this fall in shape and ready to go. We’ll work on the little things with him and fine tune him a bit. He’s a really athletic kid, but he’s a little raw around the edges in some areas.”
That hard work is something Napier is looking forward to.
“I’ve got to work on everything,” he said. “I’ve got to make my worse better and my better better. I’ve got to stay in the cage and keep working. I want to be ready to go physically and mentally when the time comes.”