He was all-state in baseball and basketball. He led his high school baseball team to the state championship and pitched a shutout in the deciding game. Drafted in the fifth round by the Padres in 2013, out of Norwell High School he signed for an above-slot bonus he left with much fanfare to the Arizona League where he hit .278/.378/.348 in his debut.
And then he came home.
Most high school phenoms are allowed to endure their growing pains far from their friend’s and families’ eyes, but for Josh, the people that had grown up watching him play from Little League on only had to make a twenty minute drive from Ossian Indiana to see the hometown boy.
And it was tough. His first two months he hit .221 and .200 before picking it up in the second half of the season at .297/.374/.368.
The left-handed hitting VanMeter, 19, is a good athlete who can play both second and shortstop and could be one of the breakout stars in 2015 in Lake Elsinore where the hitter friendly environment of the Cal League, and the long plane rides from Indiana, should really improve his game.
You had a really good month in June after a tough April and May. What changed it around for you?
Josh VanMeter: Just being more confident and understanding what I am trying to do. The first couple of months with the whole situation of coming back to my hometown put a little too much pressure on myself.
I found that I was trying to do too much at the plate and being someone that I wasn’t. So I started to work on hitting line drives in the gaps and wherever I could find a hole and that kind of changed it around for me.
You had to be pretty mentally strong to do that. How do you do that?
Josh VanMeter: Mainly just try to go to the plate with a clear mind. Early in the season I was just thinking too much and trying to do too much.
What is it like to be in your hometown? Everyone else here is very far away from their family and friends so in a way it’s easier to focus.
Josh VanMeter: It was tough. I tried to play if off in the beginning of the season like it wasn’t a big deal, but when you go 0-4 - and on opening night I went 0-3 - and everyone is asking you about it; it’s tough.
The answer is that it is the game of baseball and you are going to struggle every now and then. That was the biggest thing is that I was trying to play for the people in the stands when I should have been for myself and my teammates.
The expectations are so much different between high school and professional baseball. In high school I was able to hit nearly .500 in a season and pitch the winning game and you can’t do that as a professional.
What is interesting is in high school you were able to play for yourself and the fans, in really every sport that you played. So that must take some getting used too.
Josh VanMeter: It is a big adjustment. When the community comes out for you in high school it is a whole different thing in professional baseball. I’m not wearing Norwell High School across my chest.
I’ve had to learn a lot in my first professional season between how to deal with the things that we have been talking about and moreover the better competition on the field.
You said it was a big adjustment in spring in the Arizona League on the speed of the game. What has been the big adjustment here?
Josh VanMeter: Pitchers being able to throw their off-speed for strikes. That was the biggest one for me. The AZL is much more fastball dominant with guys trying to locate their fastballs.
Here guys can put their fastballs on both sides of the plate and throw off-speed; so that gets tough.
The pitching is obviously better here but do you have a little more comfortable at-bats in the Midwest League? It seems that they throw hard in the AZL, but they don’t always know where it is going.
Josh VanMeter: There were some times when you step in the box in the AZL and you knew there was a good chance you were going to wear one in the back, But here, they are around the plate.
You played both second and short. Any preference?
Josh VanMeter: Yeah. When Franchy [Cordero] went down I got more time at short, but when I do get at second I do feel good. I grew up playing shortstop.
You were a big pitching star in high school. If there is a blow-out are we going to see you on the mound?
Josh VanMeter: [laughs] I did that once in the AZL and [Michel] Collins [his manager in Fort Wayne and with the AZL Padres last year] told me if I did it again I could lose my job. I miss it some but I need to work on my hitting and fielding a little more right now.