Sports

SK's Meeker a man of many positions for BlueJackets

A visit to the ballpark provides a different scenario each time.

Anyway, it does if you’re Josh Meeker, a 2002 South Kitsap graduate.

The 6-foot-3 Meeker, heading into his senior year at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, is back for a second season with the Kitsap BlueJackets. And muck like fellow South graduate Willie Bloomquist, who can play any infield and outfield position for the Seattle Mariners, Meeker never knows whether he will play or where he’ll line up in the field until he arrives for the game.

“I was kind of a utility player (at Austin Peay State), and I’m kind of doing the same role here with the Kitsap BlueJackets,” said Meeker, who played left field and every infield position for the Governors except shortstop in the spring. “That’s why I love Willie so much — because we’re very similar. He has a little bit more wheels than me, but besides that, we’re pretty similar.”

While Meeker’s versatility has carried over from college, his swing hasn’t. After hitting .333 for the Governors, Meeker has struggled in the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League. While Kitsap entered Friday’s game against the Kelowna Falcons tied for second place with a 14-9 record, Meeker was struggling with a .167 average in 54 at-bats.

“Sometimes in baseball, it’s such a negative game and I get down on myself quite easily,” he said. “I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, but when I don’t do well I get frustrated. Sometimes I ... think too much and try too hard.”

Kitsap coach Matt Acker agreed.

“It’s in his head,” he said. “He’s trying to do more than he’s capable of doing. We just want him to be Josh Meeker. We don’t need Superman. If we wanted Superman, we would’ve recruited Superman. We’ve been telling him that, and I think he realizes it, but it’s easier said than done sometimes to make that adjustment.”

If Meeker isn’t too busy, he might gather his friends for some extra work to help with his swing. But that extra work doesn’t involve a bat or a pitching machine.

“I like to play ping-pong, and I consider myself a pretty good ping-pong player,” he said. “That’s one of my big hobbies, and it helps with hand-eye coordination. If you can hit a little tiny (ping-pong) ball, you should be able to hit a baseball pretty well.”

If that sounds a little quirky, it’s just one of the traits that have endeared Meeker to his teammates and the coaches.

“There’s a lot he’s overcome to be at the level he’s at,” said Acker, a reference to Meeker missing the 2004 and 2005 seasons and starting last year with the Jackets’ feeder team in Tacoma. “Hopefully we’ve provided some positives in his life, too, because he’s provided a lot of positives for our team and organization.”

Kitsap outfielder Doug Buser, who will be a junior at the University of Oklahoma in the fall, said Meeker acclimated well when he joined the Jackets last season.

“He’s done a lot of introducing himself to other people throughout his life — that’s what he did in Portugal — and I think that kind of comes over nowadays when he’s meeting people just in general,” Buser said. “He’s very personable, very fun and he makes people feel at ease when they’re in a conversation with him.”

It all comes from experience. After graduating from South, Meeker spent a year at Olympic College and then went on a two-year mission in Portugal for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It was an amazing, life-changing experience,” he said. “It was a great experience to go over there on my own and to kind of get away from mom and dad and realize that one day I’m going to have to grow up and be independent. I learned a lot and made a lot of great friends over there, and one day I hope to go back.”

The blend of experiences also translates to the field. Meeker seems to feel at ease anywhere on the diamond, but said he is most comfortable at second base.

Of course, he wouldn’t want to underscore his time at third base where “you feel more like a man” because of the quick reaction — almost like a ping-pong — of the ball coming off the bat.

Then again, left field is the “fun position” because “you don’t get too much action and you get some time to think.”

Press Meeker on what position he really wants to play, though, and the answer is none of the above.

“Maybe one day Acker will let me pitch,” he said. “That would be my dream.”

Another dream might be to follow Bloomquist to the Major League, but that seems unlikely, since Meeker wasn’t selected in the June amateur draft and only has one year of college eligibility left.

“I’m not going to say yes because I don’t personally see myself at that point right now,“ he said. “But it’s always a possibility. Who knows what can happen?”

If that doesn’t work out, Meeker is excited about a career that combines his athletic passion and social acumen.

“My future goal actually is to become a broadcaster,” said Meeker, a communications major who also enjoys basketball, football and soccer. “Hopefully being in sports and around sports, if I can’t play I might as well broadcast. I can’t see the rest of my life without sports, so that’s why I want to go with broadcasting.”

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