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Vidalia senior embraces catcher position, leads team in batting

BEN HILLYER | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Vidalia catcher Kyle Coley retrieves the pitch from William Handjis during baseball practice Wednesday afternoon.
BEN HILLYER | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Vidalia catcher Kyle Coley retrieves the pitch from William Handjis during baseball practice Wednesday afternoon.

VIDALIA — Senior Kyle Coley settled into his new home behind the plate for the Vidalia Vikings with a concentrated effort to master the position.

Regarded as one of the best outfield players in the area by Vidalia head coach Kale Davis, Coley switched from outfielder to catcher as a freshman when a junior varsity catcher did not show up for a game. Coley was a natural.

“I can’t imagine not playing it,” Coley said. “You see everything that’s happening on the field. You don’t miss a beat when you’re catching. You’re a part of every play.”

With a 3.2 GPA, Coley plans on studying kinesiology at ULM once he graduates. Outside of the classroom, Coley spends most of his time on the baseball field, trying to perfect his craft.

Dropped balls in the outfield exasperated Coley, so one can imagine the patience needed for Coley’s slow-build transition process of digging up balls in the dirt behind home plate. The process in all was strange for Coley, who played only a few years at catcher in Dixie Youth. That was until the muscle memory caught up with him, allowing him to react to plays without thinking, and when it comes down to it, that’s what attracts Coley to the sport of baseball.

“Baseball is challenging, and it’s a game where you don’t want to think and want to think at the same time,” Coley said. “If you think too much, you’re going to mess up.”

Even if Coley “messed up,” you wouldn’t hear him gripe. Davis called Vidalia’s leader in batting average in 2013 and 2014 a natural leader, always pushing himself to work harder and lead by example.

“Kyle does whatever you ask him to do,” Davis said. “He’s come a long way with catching. Ever since his first full year at it, he’s done a solid job.”

Coley adapted to the position so well that he became a weapon behind home plate — a weapon that can end games. Up 7-6 in the bottom of the seventh inning against Avoyelles Parish in the district finale, the Vikings allowed runners on first and second base with two outs.

Avoyelles attempted to bunt but the batter missed, leaving the Avoyelles runner sprinting toward second in a failed sacrifice attempt to move him over. Because the Vikings defended the bunt, second baseman Josh Foucher had to cover second base, and he had a late start getting to the bag. Coley was forced to anticipate his fellow senior was going to be there.

“I hesitated because I didn’t see Josh at first, but I threw it, trusting he would be there,” Coley said. “He got there in time and tagged him out. Two seniors getting the final out in the last district game felt great.”

As far as sports are concerned, baseball is the end-all, be-all for Coley. In fact, if there would have been a fall league that sparked Coley’s interest, he might have never played football.

It’s a sport he’d like to play at the next level, should he be granted the opportunity. After he graduates and makes yet another transition in his life by attending ULM, Coley plans to tryout for the baseball team.

“If I don’t make it, that’s fine, and if I do make it, then great,” Coley said.

Because of the time spent on the diamond, Coley has missed out on some quality time with his grandfather Gordon Hughes Jr.

“We hunt and watch a lot of television together,” Coley said. “We were pretty much inseparable, but these last couple years I’ve been playing baseball and haven’t got to spend as much time with him.”

As the season draws toward a conclusion, Coley plans to make up for lost time with Hughes before heading off to ULM.

Coley’s parents are Kevin and Lisa Coley.

 

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