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Josh VanMeter leaves Tuesday for his first full baseball spring training with the San Diego Padres. If all goes well, they'll send him home for the summer.
VanMeter, the former Norwell High School standout, joined the Padres after leading the Knights to the Class 3A state championship last June. He played 44 games with the AZL Padres in the rookie league and went on a trip with select Padres players to the Dominican Republic last fall.
With a good spring training, VanMeter could be assigned to the Class A Fort Wayne TinCaps.
VanMeter would be the first everyday TinCaps player to come from the Fort Wayne area. Some local pitchers, including Leo's Brandon Alger, have played with the team.
“Down in the Dominican, they kind of told me I have a good chance to play in Fort Wayne this year, but that's really all they said,” VanMeter said. “The expectations are that you show up in spring training in shape and ready to go on Day One. It's your career and you can do what you want with it. There's not a whole lot they tell you, except to show up in shape.”
VanMeter enters in the best shape of his life. He spent the offseason working with personal trainer Evan Rubin at Absolute Results and the results are evident: He now weighs 180 pounds after adding about 20 pounds of muscle to his 5-foot-11 frame.
“I definitely needed to get bigger and stronger,” VanMeter said. “Evan definitely did his job and we got after it every day and I was able to do what I needed to do. I mixed that in with my dad or my high-school team doing some hitting and fielding and throwing in the auxiliary gym. It's nice to be able to do that with all that space in there.”
VanMeter was a fifth-round draft pick of the Padres last year and he showed steady improvement once he joined the organization. He played 44 games for the AZL Padres, primarily at shortstop, and hit .278 with seven doubles, two triples, 16 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
That experience, along with his three weeks in the Dominican Republic, puts him in a confident state of mind as he enters his first full pro season.
“I think it's always better getting a taste of something before going all in,” he said. “I had the chance to play every day and learn the ropes. Getting acclimated with the guys in the organization and the coaches and all that type of stuff is a positive thing. I think it really helped me in the short term and prepared me for this first full go of it.”
If VanMeter is assigned to the TinCaps, he'll be more than familiar with new manager Michael Collins. Collins managed VanMeter and the AZL Padres last season.
“I found that a very exciting and encouraging hire and I think that's a good thing for us AZL guys; he obviously led us to a pretty good year and he knows what he's doing,” VanMeter said. “I liked playing for him.”
VanMeter would face at least a little extra pressure playing at Parkview Field where so many family members and Norwell community friends could come and watch him play.
The good thing is that one of his best traits as a player has been a knack for thriving under pressure.
“I think everybody would be excited to do that if they had the opportunity,” he said. “I wouldn't say I'm anxious, but excited. I don't want to make that into more of a pressure situation, but just go out and do what I do. If all the cards fall in the right place and it happens, I'll be excited.”