80ºF

All-25 baseball: First-round draft picks, state champs headline this team

From top left to right, Brett Myers, Hunter Barco, Billy Butler; bottom left to right, Javier Baez, Ben Gamel and Eric Hurley.
From top left to right, Brett Myers, Hunter Barco, Billy Butler; bottom left to right, Javier Baez, Ben Gamel and Eric Hurley.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Baseball on the First Coast has been about as successful of a sport as any.

High school teams from our area have produced 40 Florida High School Athletic Association state championships since 1922 and dozens of players have been selected straight out of high school in the professional baseball draft.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 draft who went on to win an MVP and reach the hall of fame (Bolles’ Chipper Jones) played here. We’ve seen a pair of first-round draft pick teammates (Billy Butler and Eric Hurley in 2004), a runner-up for MVP (Daniel Murphy) and a recent World Series hero (Howie Kendrick).

Our All-25 path continues this week as we focus on the best high school baseball players of the 25-year period from 1995 to 2019. This list is tailored to success in high school and high school alone. What players accomplished in college or professionally could accentuate a resume, but players weren’t judged on that.

That’s why when you see a player like Murphy ranked a little lower than you think, consider that he was a three-year starter at Englewood from 2001-03, but never a first-team all-city selection in high school.

Murphy came into his own at Jacksonville University and has been a stellar player in the bigs. Ditto that for Wolfson alum and current Indians pitcher Michael Clevinger, who earned second- and third-team all-city honors in 2008-09.

Austin Slater has done well in the majors with the Giants. At Bolles, he was a very good infielder, but suffered a broken ankle before his senior season that put him a bit further down this list. Slater then hit his stride at Stanford.

Kendrick has been exceptional in pro baseball, helping lead the Nationals to the World Series last year. At West Nassau, he appeared on just one all-city squad, checking in as a second-team pick as a senior in 2001.

From a coaching perspective, the area has an abundance of men who have hit multiple victory milestones.

John Brown at University Christian, Howard May at Parker and Ken Roland at Fernandina Beach front the area’s 600 wins or more club.

Don Suriano (Bolles, Fleming Island, Ridgeview), Bob West (Bishop Kenny), Rob Thompson (Clay), John Gwynes (White) and Jack Spencer (ACD, Englewood, Paxon) are other names who dot various halls of fame lists and their resumes will stand up against many.

Brown won three state titles and 645 career games at UC (1978-79 and ’90). Suriano won three championships at Bolles (1983, ’89 and ’91) and went 559-234. Although May has just one title, he is regarded by many as the best coach the area has seen. He is the area’s all-time wins leader (724-299) during a 33-year career that ended in 2002.

West went 532-129 with a state title in 23 seasons at Kenny, coaching his last year in 2005. Thompson retired after reaching the state title game in 2014, a 26-year career and 454 wins.

Keystone Heights’ Alan Mattox, coaching since 1992, is over 450 career wins. Roland won 631 games at Fernandina and 667 overall during a 40-year career. Spencer, who died last year at 72, won a pair of state titles at ACD and nearly 600 games.

But since this is a 25-year slice of the pie, the bulk of those coaches’ success came prior to the cutoff for this list. Same for some of the area’s most recognizable players. Players like Rick Wilkins (1986), Jon Farrell (1989), Desi Relaford (1992), Ryan Freel and Kevin Witt (both 1994) were all prior to the cutoff under this criteria.

As with our previous All-25 teams, conversation and input from multiple coaches went in to helping determine the team. With the exception of the 1995 selections, players had to play in the area for two years to be considered.


News4Jax All-25 coverage

Feb. 8: Football

Feb. 15: Boys basketball

Feb. 22: Girls basketball

Today: Baseball

Next week: Softball


COACHES

Mike Boswell, Bolles

Boswell started his coaching career in 1995 at Paxon with the worst record that he’d ever post (14-14), a testament to how steady he’s been in his career. Boswell has never finished a season below .500. His 448-135 record has all come during the 25-year window. He’s won three state championships (1999 at Englewood and 2016-17 at Bolles) and played for another. Has coached four players of the year (Brett Myers, DJ Stewart and Hunter Barco twice).

Mac Mackiewitz, Providence

The former UNF player has racked up 415 victories in his coaching career, with state championships in 2008 and ’12, and runners-up spots in two other seasons (2009, ’13). Has coached two players of the year (Walker Lockett, Tyler Callihan). Behind Boswell and Keystone’s Mattox, Mackiewitz is likely the next area coach poised to reach 500 career wins.

Gil Morales, Trinity Christian

Morales had two very successful programs in this window, winning three state championships in a four-year span at Eagle’s View (2005, ’07-08) and another at Trinity in 2015. Morales spent 13 seasons coaching in the area (and 16 overall) and racked up a 280-167 record. Morales’ specialty was rebuilding programs and he did that exceptionally well at both Eagle’s View at Trinity. Coached two players of the year (Austin Maddox, Paul Morales).

FIRST TEAM

P Hunter Barco

High school: Bolles

Final season: 2019

College: Florida

Notable: Four-time all-city selection and two-time top player. Incredible big game player. Won three state semifinal playoff games. Was 35-4 with 1.53 ERA, 336 Ks in 269.1 IP. A very good hitter, too. He had a .299 career average with 76 RBI, 13 HR. Was 24th-round pick of Mets in draft but opted to head to college at Florida where he is currently a true freshman. One of the players with the highest ceilings to play in the area.

P Mark Lumpa

High school: Bolles

Final season: 2010

College: Duke

Notable: Difficult to beat perfection. Lumpa was 28-0 in his career, 13 of those victories coming as a senior during a state championship season, including wins in the state semifinal and final. Was 11-0 as a junior with an 0.82 ERA and another state title. A career .282 hitter in college with 44 RBI and drawing 96 walks.

P Eric Hurley

High school: Wolfson

Final season: 2004

College: None, first-round pick by Rangers

Notable: Dominant. Was 15-1 in his final season with a 0.73 ERA and 154 Ks in 109 innings. Was 42-9 in his career with 467 Ks and a 1.46 ERA. Three-time all-city first-team selection. Area’s top player as a senior. Was the No. 30 overall pick by Texas in 2004. Injuries prevented him from lengthy pro career. Went 1-2 in the big leagues with 13 Ks and a 5.47 ERA.

P Mike Hitt

High school: Parker

Final season: 1996

College: Jacksonville

Notable: Played just two years under this criteria, but Hitt was stellar in those two seasons. Broke a nearly 20-year-old state record for career strikeouts in the 1996 state semifinals with the seventh no-hitter of his career. Lefty finished with 584 Ks, a then-area record 37 wins and earned 1996 co-city player of the year honors.

C Tony Richie

High school: Bishop Kenny

Final season: 2000

College: Florida State

Notable: Four-year starter remains the only area Mr. Baseball winner. He hit .554 with 34 RBI and 46 runs. Even better as a junior when he hit .560 with 10 HR, 24 doubles and 56 RBI. Earned All-American honors all three seasons at Florida State. Hit .340 with 28 HRs, 185 RBI with the Seminoles. Fifth-round pick of the White Sox out of high school. Fourth-round pick of the Cubs in 2003. Hit .260 with 116 RBIs in six minor league seasons.

IF Javier Baez

High school: Arlington Country Day

Final season: 2011

College: None, first-round pick by Cubs

Notable: His senior season at now-defunct ACD was like a video game — .711 (64 for 83), 22 HRs, 20 doubles and 6 triples — during the final year of the loaded bat era in high school. He drove in 52 runs, scored 46 and walked 32 times. Belted 14 homers as a sophomore. Drafted by the Cubs ninth overall in 2011. Career .270 hitter with 110 homers, 354 RBI in the majors.

IF Billy Butler

High school: Wolfson

Final season: 2004

College: None, first-round pick by Royals

Notable: Three-time first-team all-city pick and area’s top player as a junior and one of the most lethal sluggers to come through Jacksonville. Won area Triple Crown in 2003, hitting .603, driving in 35 runs and belting 9 home runs. Went 9-0 with 3 saves, 98 Ks in 62 innings pitched as a junior. Was the 14th overall pick in 2004. Made his big league debut in 2007 and spent time with three teams in his career. A career .290 hitter with 147 homers.

IF Tyler Callihan

High school: Providence

Final season: 2019

College: None, third-round pick by Reds

Notable: Started for five seasons with Stallions and appeared on the all-city team in each of those seasons, with a pair of first-team selections. Area’s top player in 2019. A career .390 hitter in high school with program-best 131 RBI, 190 hits and 36 doubles. Also belted 22 career home runs. Third-round pick of Reds last year. Hitting .263 with 33 RBI, 6 HRs in the minors thus far.

IF Alec Sanchez

High school: Providence

Final season: 2018

College: Florida State

Notable: A rare four-time all-city selection. Program career leader in hits, slugging, stolen bases, doubles and home runs. Hit career-best .489 as a senior. Holds program-records in average (.392), runs (155), stolen bases (85) and walks (91). Belted 25 career HRs. Led city in RBI (41) and HRs (10) during his final season. Signed with Florida State, but transferred to Florida International.

OF Ben Gamel

High school: Bishop Kenny

Final season: 2010

College: None, 10th-round draft pick of Yankees in 2010

Notable: Three-time first-team all-city pick hit a career-best .516 as a senior. Scored 108 runs in three seasons. Signed with Florida State out of high school but went the professional route after being drafted by the Yankees. Made his big league debut in 2016 with New York. Played two seasons for Seattle and currently with the Brewers.

OF Mike McCallister

High school: Clay

Final season: 2003

College: Alabama

Notable: Two-time first-team all-city selection and three-year starter for the Blue Devils. Hit 17 homers over his final two seasons. Three-time first-team all-state selection. Signed with Alabama and spent two seasons there before transferring to Jacksonville. A career .298 hitter in college with 123 RBI, 39 doubles, 18 HRs.

OF DJ Stewart

High school: Bolles

Final season: 2013

College: Florida State

Notable: Hit .573 as a junior with 25 RBI and 41 runs. Player of the year as a senior when he hit .423 with 29 RBI and 9 HRs. Second team all-city as a sophomore. Was 28th-round pick of Yankees out of high school. First- or second-team All-American selection during sophomore and junior seasons at Florida State. ACC player of the year in 2014. First-round pick of Orioles (26th overall) in 2015. Hitting .241 with 7 HRs, 25 RBI in big league career.

UT Brett Myers

High school: Englewood

Final season: 1999

College: None, first-round pick of Phillies

Notable: Went 16-4 with 229 Ks, 0.99 ERA over his final two seasons. Myers slides into the utility spot here because of his bat. He was a masher at the plate. Hit .400 with 12 HR, 41 RBI as a senior. Helped lead Rams to Class 4A state title in 1999. Was 12th overall pick in 1999 draft. Went 97-96 in the big leagues with 1,379 Ks in 1,710 innings pitched.

SECOND LINEUP

IF Josh Adams, Eagle’s View, 2007

Why he’s here: A three-time first-team all-city selection who hit a career-best .505 as a senior. Had 51% of his hits that season go for extra bases. Hit .485 as a junior, .419 as a sophomore and .352 as a freshman. Won state titles in 2005 and ’07. Led Warriors in Triple Crown categories three seasons. Hit .305 in his career at Florida and graduated as program’s all-time leader in games played (253) and started (252).

UT Greg Buscher, Parker, 2001

Why he’s here: About as versatile a player as the Braves have had. Hit .370 as a senior and won more than a dozen games over his final two seasons. Appeared on all-city team three times.

IF Travis Chapman, Bishop Kenny, 1996

Why he’s here: Went 16-2 on the mound and flirted with .400 averages at the plate during his two seasons of eligibility under this criteria. A career .355 hitter with 71 doubles, 196 RBI and 26 HRs in four seasons during a excellent career at Mississippi State. A 17th-round pick of the Phillies in 2000, he was a career .286 hitter in the minors.

IF Caleb Denmark, Bolles, 2010

Why he’s here: Excellent two seasons for the Bulldogs. Hit .457 with 91 hits, 90 RBI, 22 doubles and 17 HRs. Two saves in relief, with 22 Ks in 21.2 IP. Team won 60 games, two state titles in his career.

C Garris Gonce, Clay, 1998

Why he’s here: A three-time first-team all-city selection. Hit .487 with 28 home runs in his career. Nearly won area’s Triple Crown as a sophomore, leading area in average and home runs, and finishing second in RBI. Hit .319 with 32 doubles, 25 HRs, 90 RBI in two seasons at South Carolina.

IF Austin Knight, Bolles, 2018

Why he’s here: A career .363 hitter with 82 RBI, 39 doubles and 16 HR. Appeared on all-city team three times in his career, including twice on the first team. Excellent on defense, he was probably a better fielder than he was a hitter. Currently a sophomore at Tennessee.

UT Walker Lockett, Providence, 2012

Why he’s here: Two-time first-team all-city pick and area’s top player as a junior. Hit .468 with 57 RBI. Hit .400 with 6 HRs as a senior and went 9-1 on the mound with 86 Ks, 0.64 ERA and led Stallions to state title in 2012. Belted 18 HRs as a junior, an area-record for a player in the FHSAA. Fourth-round pick of Padres. Is 1-4 in bigs, with 28 Ks in 37.2 IP.

C Austin Maddox, Eagle’s View, 2009

Why he’s here: Three-time first-team all-city pick would be a first-team lock if not for Richie. Hit .500 as a sophomore, .511 with 68 RBI as a junior and .544 with 9 HR, 33 RBI as a senior when he was the area’s top player. Teams he was on went 19-2 in the state playoffs and won a couple titles. Was a dual star at Florida. Hit .303 with 23 HR, 112 RBIs in three seasons. Evolved into shutdown reliever (6-3, 17 saves, 1.86 ERA). Third-round pick of Red Sox in 2012. Has 14 Ks in 17.1 IP in bigs but has been injured much of last two years.

UT Austin Martin, Trinity Christian, 2017

Why he’s here: Three-year starter for Conquerors and appeared on all-city team each season. Hit .402 as a sophomore, .365 as a junior and .424 as a senior. Had 54 RBI, 8 HR in his career. Helped Trinity win state title in 2015. Helped lead Vanderbilt to 2019 College World Series title. Career .364 hitter, 65 RBI, 33 doubles, 11 HRs in college.

P Sean Reid-Foley, Sandalwood, 2014

Why he’s here: Was a flamethrower at Paxon before transferring to the Saints. Went 14-6 over his final two seasons and struck out 257 in 146.1 IP. Allowed just 17 hits during his final year in 2014, in which he was city player of the year. Second-round pick of Blue Jays. Is 4-8 in his pro career with 70 Ks in 65 IP.

IF Derek Rix, Bishop Kenny, 1996

Why he’s here: Area’s co-player of the year as a senior and first-team all-state selection. Hit .493 as a junior and .426 as a senior. Had 25 doubles over his final two seasons. Also a polished hurler, Rix was 10-0 on the mound in his final season. Hit 24 regular season HRs at FCCJ as a sophomore. Drafted by Red Sox and played one season of pro ball, hitting .283 with 8 HRs.

OF Troy Veleber, Parker, 1998

Why he’s here: Appeared on all-city team twice, including as the area’s top player in his final season. On-base percentage of nearly .600. Hit .372 with 38 runs and was one of the last wave of truly great area base stealers. Had 52 as a senior. Team had just three losses in 1998, its last two coming to state champ Leon and runner-up Wolfson. A 13th-round pick of Pirates out of JU in 2000.

OF Alden Watson, Parker, 1998

Why he’s here: Appeared on all-city team three times, including first-team his final two seasons. Had 52 stolen bases as a junior and hit .400. Hit .447 with 34 runs and 31 stolen bases as a senior. Multi-year player for UNF.

HONORABLE MENTION

IF Matt Berquist, Eagle’s View, 2009

UT Donald Brickle, Arlington Country Day, 2001

IF Brian Buscher, Parker, 1999

OF Mike Bynum, Middleburg, 1995

P Jon Byrd, University Christian, 1995

P Mitch Campion, Creekside, 2016

IF Daniel Cantu, Creekside, 2019

P Mike Cassala, Bartram Trail, 2015

P Taylor Cobb, Bolles, 2001

OF Mike Curry, University Christian, 1995

P Matt Davis, Fernandina Beach, 2003

P Matt Deegan, Ponte Vedra, 2013

P Josh Deel, Wolfson, 2001

P Dane Dunning, Clay, 2013

P Charlie Farah, Englewood, 1999

IF Chase Fontaine, Nease, 2004

IF Dusty Gomon, Parker, 2001

UT Colby Halter, Bishop Kenny, 2020

IF Hunter Hanks, Baker County, 2013

C Matt Heath, Fernandina Beach, 1997

IF Jon Helquist, University Christian, 1999

C Nathan Hickey, Providence, 2019

P Hayden Hurst, Bolles, 2012

P Jon Hollis, Bolles, 2002

P Adam Horne, Stanton, 1997

P Tommy Isaacs, Bolles, 2008

P Kris Keller, Fletcher, 1996

IF Ty Kelly, Providence, 2011

P Michael Kirkman, Columbia, 2005

C Jeremiah Klosterman, Bolles, 1995

P AJ Labas, Trinity Christian, 2017

IF Richie Lucas, Wolfson, 2007

IF Matt Marti, Bishop Kenny, 2000

P Travis Martin, Providence, 2003

UT Tyler Martin, Providence, 2012

P Tim Mattison, Trinity Christian, 2000

IF Lee McCool, Palatka, 1997

C Sam McMillian, Suwannee, 2017

UT Kyle Miller, Parker, 2005

P Matt Miller, Sandalwood, 2011

UT Paul Morales, Eagle’s View, 2007

IF Daniel Murphy, Englewood, 2003

IF Chuck Opachich, Episcopal, 2006

P Jeremy Papelbon, Bishop Kenny, 2002

OF Kyle Parker, Bartram Trail, 2008

P D.J. Roberts, Atlantic Coast, 2016

IF Avery Romero, Menendez, 2012

P Dan Roszel, Sandalwood, 1995

P/OF Pat Rumble, Bishop Kenny, 2000

IF/P Hunter Scantling, Episcopal, 2008

P Jeramy Simmons, Arlington Country Day, 2001

P Scott Sitz, Fletcher, 2009

OF Austin Slater, Bolles, 2011

IF Tony Stevens, Keystone Heights, 1997

IF Jason Swan, Atlantic Coast, 2017

OF TJ Thompson, Bishop Kenny, 2006

UT Andy Toelken, Clay, 2014

P William Whitaker, First Coast, 1996

P Brett Wisely, Sandalwood, 2017

IF Taylor Wood, Fernandina Beach, 1997


About the Author: