Josh VanMeter - Back in Indiana

PEORIA, AZ - If you are 18 years old and had an opportunity to chase your dream would you do it?

If you are Josh VanMeter, the starting second baseman on this year's Fort Wayne TinCaps, it's an emphatic yes.

"It was always my dream and to pass that opportunity would have been stupid. If it's there then go and get it when you can," said VanMeter during a break near the end of spring training on his choice to forego college and sign with the San Diego Padres.

"If you go to college there isn't a guarantee that it's going to still be there in three years."

VanMeter, 19, was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 draft out of Norwell High School in Ossian, Indiana, which is just 10 miles south of Fort Wayne, where he was a multi-sport star in baseball and basketball.

A talented off-guard VanMeter twice led his squad deep into the Indiana State playoffs, one of the better regions in the country for basketball.

Last spring he led the Norwell Knights to a state title with a batting average of.450 and nine home runs as a shortstop and pitcher. On the mound he was 14-1 as a pitcher, including a complete game victory in the state championship game. His record on the mound beat previous holder of the title at the school, Jarod Parker, a first-round draft pick that is currently on the Oakland A's.

So when the Padres came by and offered him an above-slot bonus to sign with them to go along with a guarantee to pay for college, it really wasn't much of a choice.

"The money was nice but what it all came down to me was the opportunity to play professional baseball and that was the deciding factor for me."

"You can always go back to school and get your education."

In June of last year VanMeter left the idyllic summers of northeastern Indiana for the Arizona League, where all the games are played in the spring training sites of the major league clubs, and mercifully at night.

"Yeah coming from forty degrees to start the year to 120 was crazy," laughed VanMeter.

"I had a real good time in the AZL. The team was really good and everyone bonded well."

The left-handed hitting VanMeter had a .378 on-base percentage and showed an ability to handle both second base and shortstop in the AZL last year. After a brief adjustment period in June, he hit .290/.364/.362 in July before fading some in August.

"The biggest thing was just trying to slow myself down, especially at the plate," VanMeter said on his first year.

"We had guys day in and day out that were throwing 90 plus which I had never seen before. So for me it was all about getting my timing down and making the game as slow as possible, not getting too antsy or anxious at the plate."

What impressed the Padres the most about VanMeter was not so much as what he did on the field but his understanding on how to play the game.

"He's a great young player with a very good feel, which is his biggest strength," said Michael Collins his manager last year in the Arizona League and who is in charge of this year's TinCaps' squad.

"He makes a lot of smart decisions on the field and plays much older than he is. It's tough coming straight out of high school but he had no problems adjusting to the speed of the game."

The 2013 Arizona League club that VanMeter played on was one of the better clubs that the Padres have had in that league for a while. Twelve players on the opening day roster of this year's TinCaps team played on the club, a very high number to be promoted directly from the short-season rookie leagues to the Midwest League.

This off-season the Padres wanted VanMeter to get stronger and add some more strength to his slight six-foot, 170 lbs. frame.

Josh reported to spring training with the additional muscle.

"I was working out about four or five times a week in the off-season and pounding protein shakes," VanMeter said on his weight gain.

"I gained about 20 pounds in the offseason because that is what I felt that I needed to do to get to the next level."

Randy Smith, the Padres' Director of Development and International Scouting also echoed Collins' sentiments at the end of spring training when describing VanMeter. "He has tremendous court awareness and really understands the game, which gives him the ability to slow it down."

"Josh is just a very good player that has quality at-bats and is very mature beyond his years."

Because his has the demeanor of someone much older than his 19 years some people can forget what a very good all-around athlete VanMeter is.

When Smith was reminded that his description of VanMeter sounded similar to that of a good basketball player and if was aware that Josh also had some opportunities to play basketball collegiately, Smith laughed.

"Sure, but he's a pretty good baseball player too."

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