Barbe (Lake Charles, La.) baseball coach Glenn Cecchini will tell you that the one trait that makes his son a great player is his tireless work ethic. Gavin Cecchini will tell you that he learned this life lesson from two amazing people, his parents.
"He is a relentless worker - the first there and the last to leave," said the elder Cecchini. "The thing you notice about Garin when he plays is he is always smiling. He loves playing baseball."
Garin says that his enthusiasm for the sport comes directly from the influence of his parents, both longtime coaches who excelled as athletes at the college level.
"They are incredible people," said Garin. "They are both coaches. They have taught me and my brother everything they know about baseball. They are workaholics and they have given everything to us to make us as good as we can be."
Scouts will tell you that Garin Cecchini is about as good as it gets when it comes to high school senior infielders. Baseball America ranks Cecchini as the third best shortstop in the country. He's a 4.0 student in the classroom, he helped lead Barbe to a state championship as a sophomore and last year he batted .402 with 52 runs, 10 doubles, six home runs, 43 RBI and 53 stolen bases.
"I hit every day, two or three times a day," said Cecchini. "I lift weights and I stretch a lot. I swim to strengthen my arm, I take ground balls, I do reaction and quickness drills. I try to get one percent better every day. At the end of the month I'm 30 percent better."
This year, Cecchini has Barbe off to a 10-1 start and a no. 15 ranking in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Rankings.
"At Barbe we expect to win state every year," said Cecchini. "It's a goal of each team and we don't hide behind what we expect out of ourselves. Our team is a senior-based team. We have a lot of experience back and we can really hit."
Cecchini says that his work ethic began at a young age when he spent many a spring day practicing with the great players from Barbe teams of the past.
"At a very young age my parents told my brother and me that if we would work hard and listen to all the great players, we would someday be just like them," he said. "My first memories of baseball are playing ball on the Barbe baseball field with all the past great players. They would pitch to me or play catch with me. They always had time to spend with me."
The benefactor of time shared by older players, Cecchini has always been willing to give freely of his time, according to his father.
"You will not find a kid that cares more about others than Garin," said Glenn. "When he was in 8th grade, I received a call from the principal and he said that Garin was caught being an exceptional person. He said that Garin would get permission every day at the end of school to leave class early and help a handicapped student open her locker and pack her books to go home. When asked about it, he said he saw her struggling one day to get her locker open and decided the she could use his help. So he got permission to leave a few minutes before the bell and wait for her at her locker."
Coach Cecchini says that type of giving attitude has manifested itself on the field as well.
"He is always willing to help everyone with their game. Having him on the field is just like having another coach on the field. he leads not only verbally but also by example."
Cecchini also has plenty of talent. Blessed with quick hands, he has become a tremendous hitter. His father also says he is an outstanding base stealer. His poise in big-game situations has also served him well.
"Being a coach now for 24 years, I have seen a lot of great players. When Garin was a ninth grader and we were playing in the state tournament, he was unfazed by the pressure of such a big game. The first play of the game he made an unbelievable play at second base. His first at-bat he hit a missile up the middle. I knew at that point he was going to be one of the special ones to come through the program."
Cecchini also showcased his talents on the national stage. Selected to play on the USA 18U team, Cecchini batted .333 (8 for 24) with six doubles and a home run for a team that went 8-0 and won the Pan American title.
"Winning the gold medal for my country was the proudest moment in my life because Team USA-18U hadn't ever won a gold medal on foreign soil," said Cecchini.
Team USA was part of a busy summer and fall season for Cecchini. Besides playing for the Southeast Texas Sundevils during the summer, he also participated in the Perfect Game National Showcase, the East Coast Pro Showcase and the Under Armour all-American Game.
"What a neat experience," said Cecchini about the Under Armour event. "They treated us great. meeting Cal and Billy Ripken was neat. Ernie Banks was one of my dad's heroes growing up so getting to meet him was special."
The summer showcases and the Pan American games allowed Cecchini to play with some of the best players in the country.
"There were so many great pitchers out there this summer, but Jameson Taillon, Karsten Whitson and Kevin Gausman are just a few. All of the pitchers on Team USA were incredible."
Cecchini also gets the chance to face a talented ballplayer every time he sits down to the dinner table. His younger brother Gavin, a sophomore at Barbe, will also be one to watch, according to Garin.
"Gavin's a really good player," said Garin. "He played in the Little League World Series in 2006 and he has already verbally committed to play baseball at LSU.
Garin has also committed to play at LSU, but that will likely be dependent on how high he is selected in the MLB draft in June. However Cecchini says he is not worried about the draft just yet.
"Only the good Lord knows what's going to happen," he said. "If it works out, great. I just want to focus on high school baseball right now. My goals right now are to win a state championship with the guys I've played with all my life and to have fun playing for my dad one last time."