Meadows not taking eye off the ball
Grayson (Ga.) junior outfielder is a potential first-round pick in next year's draft
For the next 12 months, Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) rising senior Austin Meadows plans on maintaining radio silence when it comes to all things MLB draft. Scouting reports, mock drafts, rankings and every other piece of analysis fans love to digest -- Meadows will ignore them all completely.
But Monday night during Day 1 of this year's draft, Meadows was just another fan soaking it all in.
He couldn't help but smile when high school players were selected first and second overall, and he cheered when fellow Gwinnett County stars Lucas Sims of Brookwood (Snellville, Ga.) and Matt Olson of Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.) heard their names called.
ESPNHS Coverage of the 2012 MLB Draft
• Draft storylines
• Austin Meadows one to watch in 2013
• Draft notebook: Recapping Day 1
• Experiencing the draft firsthand
• Top prospects on dealing with scouts
• Rio Ruiz rebounds from blood clot
• Buxton emerges as No. 1 prospect
• Draft Stock Watch: Final edition
• No. 15 McCullers Jr. left no doubt
• Draft Stock Watch: May 25 edition
• Benching motivated No. 8 Cecchini
• Draft Stock Watch: May 18 edition
• Baseball is a lifeline for No. 14 Eflin
• Draft Stock Watch: May 11 edition
• No. 9 prospect Nay loves to play
• Draft Stock Watch: May 4 edition
• Giolito & Fried: Top 10 teammates
• No. 7 prospect Dahl drawing attention
• Draft Stock Watch: Preseason edition
"I bet it's just surreal for them," Meadows said. "It's their dream come true."
A year from now, he might experience the feeling himself. Rated the No. 2 player in the ESPN 60, Meadows has all the hallmarks of a first-round pick. The left-handed center fielder is a five-tool talent with the size, speed and athleticism of a Josh Hamilton and the sweet swing of an Andre Ethier. Put it all together, and it's easy to understand why he's projected as a first-rounder.
Not that he'll be paying attention to any projections.
"I'm definitely looking forward to the next year -- to traveling around this summer and trying to win a state title next spring -- but there's no point in thinking about what might happen beyond that," Meadows said. "I don't want to get distracted."
Luckily for Meadows, this won't really be a departure from his typical approach.
"He doesn't ever let on or seem aware that all eyes are on him," said Meadows' mother, Staci. "He's down to earth about it and kind of oblivious to everything."
That attitude will be put to the test this summer. After leading Grayson to the Georgia Class AAAAA state semifinals this spring and hitting .390 with four homers, 28 RBIs and 19 steals along the way, Meadows will hit a number of big events in the coming months. From huge tournaments such as the Perfect Game National Showcase in Minnesota and the East Coast Pro Showcase in New York to All-American games in San Diego and Chicago, Meadows will enter each event with a bull's-eye on his back. Every pitcher will want to strike him out, and every scout will be looking for holes in his game.
If last summer was any indication, he'll be able to handle the pressure just fine. Meadows led the USA Baseball 16U National Team to the IBAF World Youth Championship last August in Mexico. He posted team-bests in hits (22), doubles (5), triples (3), RBIs (28) and steals (6) during the eight-game tournament, setting a record for most RBIs and earning a spot on the all-tourney team.
The same down-to-earth attitude that allows Meadows to block out distractions also helps him handle the level of success he experienced south of the border last year.
"His internal drive is the thing that impresses me," Grayson baseball coach Seth Rhine said. "No matter what he's already done, he's always working on getting better."
He's competitive, too, according to his father, Kenny. And if his will to win is half as strong on the diamond as it is on the basketball court, he'll be in good shape.
"We can be out back playing basketball, and we'll keep going until one of us passes out or comes inside with a bloody nose," Kenny said. "He loves to compete."
Meadows will have one less avenue for competition in the next year, as he intends to give up playing football for the reigning state champion Rams to focus entirely on baseball. With No. 1 national football recruit Robert Nkemdiche on the roster, Grayson should be OK. But there's one position where Nkemdiche and the Rams will especially miss Meadows -- punter.
Punting is a skill Meadows picked up from his dad, who played football and baseball at Morehead State. Staci is also responsible for some of Meadows' athletic gifts, however, as she played fast-pitch softball at Georgia Southern and Georgia State.
Meadows, meanwhile, is committed to play baseball at Clemson, pending the number of zeroes a major league team attaches to a potential signing bonus next year. But he plans on thinking about next year exactly then -- next year.
"I'll worry about the draft when it gets here," Meadows said. "I'm not going to get ahead of myself."