Natchez High catcher was an offensive force for BulldogsPublished 12:01am Sunday, June 2, 2013
NATCHEZ — Davion Ward had a reputation that preceded him when first-year Natchez High School baseball coach Brian Kossum took over the program.
When he actually got to know his senior catcher, however, Kossum said Ward was everything he had heard — and more.
“What I learned is, No. 1, that he’s a good kid who always does the right thing,” Kossum said. “The seniors weren’t required to get here at the same time everyone else did, and he’d be here early and stay late.”
The hard work paid off, as Ward was an offensive force for the Bulldogs this season. He batted .472 on the year with a .537 on-base average. Ward’s strong performance at what’s traditionally a defensive position earned him The Natchez Democrat’s 2013 All-Metro player of the year honors.
“It’s a great feeling,” Ward said. “Everything I worked hard for — all the long nights and the extra hours of practice, it all paid off. I wouldn’t have it any other way to finish my high school career.”
Though he’s also a defensive end in football and a keeper in soccer, Ward said baseball is easily his favorite sport. He’s been playing since he was 3, and though he started out as a third baseman, an experiment while in middle school eventually landed him at catcher.
“I was the backup catcher my seventh-grade year, because (the starting catcher’s) knees would get tired,” Ward said. “He got into a little trouble one time, a little altercation, so they put me in the varsity game. I did well, so I stayed there. It was kind of like it was meant to be.”
And it’s a position that gives Ward a sense of control, Ward said.
“I love it,” he said. “I feel like Peyton Manning. You see everything and make adjustments, and Coach Kossum had a lot of faith in me (instructing the defense). There weren’t many times he had to come out and say, ‘Third baseman, hold the line.’”
Kossum said Ward proved to have a high baseball acumen, which allowed Kossum to trust his backstop and not try to over manage in games Ward caught.
“He’s like a third coach,” Kossum said. “You put him on a baseball field, and he’s the smartest baseball player I’ve ever been around, and I’ve been around a lot of baseball players. He called all the pitches for us.”
An underrated aspect of Ward’s game, Kossum said, was his ability to swipe a base every now and then.
“On the basepaths, he’s not the fastest kid, but he was able to take a few because he’s a smart baserunner,” Kossum said. “We never courtesy ran for him.”
Though it’s a fun position, Ward said it’s also a difficult one to play.
“If you ask me, it’s the most difficult position on the field,” he said. “You have to know baseball and be one of the better players on the team. You also have to be mentally tough, because a lot of bad things can happen at catcher.”
Ward will play baseball for Ward is Jackson State University, where he signed this past March. Ward is the son of Yolanda Henderson and Ronnye Ridley.