Maynard catches on to catching

Staff WriterJune 4, 2011 

When Pratt Maynard left South Granville High in 2008 to join N.C. State's baseball team, he had never played a game as a catcher.

That changed fast.

Entering what might be the final game of his college career today, Maynard could be a catcher for many years to come.

In the Major League Baseball draft, which begins Monday and concludes Wednesday in Secaucus, N.J., the 6-foot, 220-pound junior rates among the best catching prospects in the nation - which is saying a lot this season.

Ten catchers, including five current high school players, are projected to be selected during the first two rounds.

"I don't spend much time looking at all of the [mock draft] lists, but I do know that for some reason, there are a lot of catchers out there this season," Maynard said recently.

One reason for that, according to N.C. State coach Elliott Avent, is that college programs have started creating catchers as much as trying to find them in recruiting.

"It's really changed," Avent said. "Pratt is the first guy we've tried it with, but a lot of programs have been doing it for years. Catcher is such an important position that you almost have to look at all possibilities.

"We were planning do it with Russell Martin [then a junior college infielder in 2002] and converting him, but the Los Angeles Dodgers had the same idea."

Originally a pitcher-third baseman, Maynard made a smooth adjustment to the demanding catching tasks. And as a left-handed batter with power, he emerged as one of the best in the nation.

"It's worked out great for me," Maynard said. "I wasn't drafted in high school as a pitcher. I came here willing to play where the coaches needed me, but I never thought much about catching till they asked me."

In Friday's 8-7 NCAA Division I tournament opening-game loss to Stetson at Columbia, S.C., Maynard went 1-for-4. For the season, he's batting .329 with 80 hits and 40 runs driven in.

"Pratt's the real deal," Avent said. "As much as we would miss him, I don't think he'll last later than the second round next week. He's everything they're looking for - hitter, arm, mechanics, great kid off the field and the hardest worker you could imagine.

"It takes a lot of time and dedication to develop into the kind of catcher Pratt's made himself in just three seasons."

Having played last summer in the Cape Cod League, Maynard got his first preview of the big leagues when he was picked for the annual all-star game in Boston's Fenway Park.

"That was just so much fun I'll never forget it," he said. "I can't imagine what it'd be like to play there every day, but I don't really have a favorite major league team."

First, of course, Maynard wants to play another weekend in the NCAA tournament, but that's going to require the Wolfpack dodging elimination today.

caulton.tudor@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8946

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