By MIKE BROWN World Sports Writer
Catching on: Fate intervened to make Dakota Washington a lifer behind the plate.
The Morris senior standout played first and third base when he first got started in playing the sport. But when he was 7 or 8, another player’s injury left his team short, and the coaches “threw me back there,” he said. A catcher was born.
“I guess I was the only one on the team who could catch the ball,” he said. “They didn’t give me a lot of instruction. Just try to block pitches in the dirt and catch everything.”
Today, some 10 years later, Washington doesn’t want to be anywhere else on a diamond. He gets a kick out of calling pitches, positioning teammates, and “being in control of the game. I love the tension. You have to be thinking of anything that can happen.”
He has an enviable “pop time” of 1.95 seconds. That means how long it takes from the moment the ball pops in the catcher’s mitt until his throw reaches second base. Recruiters and scouts place great store in such things.
He also has a booming bat. Washington had a two-run double in an 8-3 win over Bethel last Friday to celebrate his 18th birthday and started the week hitting .490 with four homers and 22 RBIs.
This isn’t his first rodeo. He totaled 12 homers and 100 RBIs over his first three varsity seasons. Last year, he made the Tulsa World All-Metro team after batting .507 with seven homers and 37 RBIs.
“He’s just a complete hitter in terms of pitch recognition and being able to hit the ball to all fields. A lot of kids can’t do that,” said Ryan Mottern, a former University of Oklahoma pitcher/outfielder and now instructor for D-BAT Tulsa.
Mottern has worked with Washington off and on for four years. But he said much of Washington’s development has come from his “determination to be successful in the game.”
Washington said he’s spent countless hours with his dad (Ed Washington), driving baseballs into the net strung up by his grandfather (Danny Hurt) in the shop he keeps in his backyard for working on cars.
“It’s all because of his work ethic,” Morris coach Kevin Ball said. “Baseball is all he’s ever done. If he’s not playing with us, it’s fall league, summer league. It’s his game.”
Recruiters are on the trail and several NCAA Division II schools showed interest, but Washington recently committed to Independence (Kansas) Community College with a dream of playing Division I baseball in a year or two.