Redfield's Replays: June 26
GRAGG FOUR-YEAR CATCHER FOR BLUE VALLEY WEST
Tanner Gragg got his start in baseball at an early age.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I have dreamt of playing in MLB (Major League Baseball),” he says. “I would play MLB, the show on the PS2, and think to myself, 'Someday I want be in a game like this.'
“I want to play professional baseball. I have always known what my goals are.”
The senior was the Jaguars' catcher for all four years of his high school career.
He almost caught every varsity inning for four years.
“I missed around 10 innings my freshman year,” he says. “In my junior and senior years, we would put another catcher in for the last inning of games where we were up by a decent amount to get some work on the varsity.”
He has impressed veteran coach Bill McDonald, who just completed his 41st season as a head baseball coach.
“He has worked extremely hard physically and mentally to be the best catcher we have had at West," McDonald says. "The greatest asset Tanner has is his willingness to work hard on his weaknesses.
“It has been an honor to have had him for these last four years. Teams have rarely tried to run on him so he makes the game easier on our pitching staff.”
What made him decide to become a catcher?
“I have always been one,” he says. “I have always had a love for being in control of the game and being involved in every single pitch.
“It’s one of the most physically demanding positions, but I love it.”
The keys to being a good catcher are not easy.
“You have to be alert for every single pitch,” he says. “Never take a pitch off and be mentally prepared before the game. Don’t just work on catching the ball.
“Work on controlling the pitching staff by learning them and the things you can do to help them. Studying how to call a game is vital so you have some background information instead of just calling a pitch because you feel like it.”
What are his strengths as a catcher?
“What helps me stand out above other catchers my age is the relationship I have with my pitching staff and the way I study the game, allowing me to be successful calling a game,” he says. “I have called my own game since freshman year and believe I have been pretty successful doing it.”
Gragg has a lot of memories of his four years at BV West.
“Winning the state tournament my junior year is probably my favorite memory of my four years at Blue Valley West,” he says. “But another great memory I will have is Coach Mac (McDonald). All of his sayings and his stories and his jokes and especially his team games (Physical Education) class.”
Next year, Gragg will be playing for the University of Kansas.
KANSAS ALL-STATE BASEBALL PICKS
Several area baseball players were named first team All-State baseball players by the Kansas Baseball Coaches Association.
In Class 6A are Blue Valley West senior pitcher Zack Engelken, Blue Valley junior pitcher Ryan Cyr; Olathe Northwest junior pitcher Austin Hansen; Olathe East senior first baseman Austin Michaud, Blue Valley senior shortstop Mitch Rogers; BV West senior outfielder Evan Bourn; Shawnee Mission North junior pitcher Chase Redick, and Shawnee Mission West senior utility player Nick Banman.
Blue Valley coach Tony Scardino was the coach of the year.
Engelken was the pitcher of the year and Michaud, the player of the year.
In 5A, there is Aquinas sophomore pitcher Riley Pint, Aquinas senior closer Tyler Watson, Aquinas senior first baseman Alex Van Pelt, Mill Valley senior third baseman Bret Messer, Mill Valley senior outfielder Nick Wilson and Mill Valley senior outfielder Colytn Gatton.