Parkview's Matt Raettig came into the 2003 season known more for his right arm than his bat.
That's not the case anymore. Not after Raettig, the Daily Post Baseball Player of the Year, terrorized opposing pitchers with a .365 average, nine home runs and a county-best 49 RBIs this season. All this while splitting time between catcher and pitcher.
"I love it," Raettig said of being behind the plate. "It's so much fun knowing you're in control, you know what's going on. It's a good feeling being back there. It's a tough job, but it's fun. Really fun."
"It's probably the worst combination, to catch and be on the mound," Parkview head coach Hugh Buchanan said. "To catch and be on the mound and do what he did (offensively) was impressive."
And a bit surprising.
Consider Raettig only hit in one out of three games last season for the eventual state champion Panthers. When teammate Tim Gustafson pitched, Kurt McKee moved to short and Raettig played third.
When fellow starter Kastulo Chen pitched, Raettig was on the bench, and when Raettig pitched he was DH'd for.
So the senior went from being in the lineup only 33 percent of the time last year to being the biggest run-producing cog in the Parkview offense this season.
"It was just awesome," Raettig said. "Last year I hit one out of every three games. But this year I knew I was going to get in ... It was a good feeling knowing I was going to play and be able to do something and contribute."
Raettig's staggering RBI total is even more amazing when you realize he had as many as 2002 AAAAA Player of the Year Jeff Francoeur did last year — in nine less games.
"It's not that I try harder with runners on base," Raettig said. "I just try to get the job done. Every time there was a runner in scoring position, I know I didn't get a base hit, but I at least tried to get the run in."
More often than not, he delivered.
But with Raettig, the offensive numbers were only half the story.
He continued to perform well for the Panthers on the mound, where he was an all-county selection last season as a junior.
He was 7-0 with a 3.90 ERA this season for Parkview, which went undefeated in Region 8-AAAAA for the third straight year.
The recently-graduated senior signed with Columbus State as a pitcher, but that was before he drove in almost 50 runs in 28 games for the defending state champions.
"It's a big part of my game," Raettig said.
"But if I only get to pitch, that's more than some people get to do. It's going to be fun either way."
Practically the only thing that wasn't fun this season for Raettig was how it ended.
The No. 1 Panthers were upset in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs by McEachern to end their hopes of a three-peat.
"It was disappointing to end the season as early as we did," Raettig said. "But that shouldn't take away from what we did during the regular season — we did have the best record ever at Parkview (24-2)."
Thanks in large part to their pitcher/catcher/RBI machine.
This story appears courtesy of the Gwinnette Daily Post.