Any baseball scout will tell you, the ball sounds different coming off the bat of a professional prospect than it does off the bat of a regular high school player.
Grayson (Loganville, Ga.)
coach Jed Hixson heard that sound during Austin Meadows
' freshman year.
"During an early BP session during Austin's freshmen season I recall a ball zipping by the L-screen and thinking the ball really comes off this kid's bat differently than most players," said Hixson. "I even went home that evening and shared that with my wife because the zip and sound of that ball was something I had never seen before, especially off the bat of a ninth-grader."
Scouts from every Major League team have become quite familiar with that "zip" over the past four seasons. However, it's not just Meadows' hitting skills that have made him the
No. 2 prospect in the country according to MaxPreps
. The 6-foot-3 senior is a true five-tool player that every team covets.
"Austin's size and speed are by far two of his most impressive tools," said Hixson. "What makes these tools so special is that they are each God-given and so natural and superior to most high school players. When he gets moving, it is fun to watch him run. Too, this year in particular, watching his pop during BP has been fun. Several of our other guys can really hit the ball well too, but Austin's bat speed and pop still stand out."
A .390 hitter as a junior, Meadows also had 28 RBIs and 19 stolen bases for a Grayson team that reached the semifinals of the Georgia Class 5A state playoffs last year. Meadows credits hard work and the support of his parents for his success thus far.
"My dad has played a huge part in developing me as a player," said Meadows. "He coached me from tee-ball up so I learned the fundamentals from him. He was a three-sport athlete all through high school and received a full scholarship for football to Morehead State. He walked on to the baseball team and started for both teams for all four years. My mom also received a fast pitch softball scholarship to Georgia Southern."
Meadows' baseball genes are quite evident, but he also works at becoming a better player every day.
"Besides practice, I work in some hitting sessions with my dad at the sports center in Loganville," he said. "I also try to fit in some conditioning in Suwanee on the weekends."
Meadows' own advice to young players is to stay humble, work hard and practice, practice, practice. It's advice that Hixson says Meadows routinely exhibits.
"Through all of the exposure both locally and nationally Austin has remained quite down to Earth," said Hixson. "He has not allowed all of the publicity and notoriety to cause him to lose his head or act like he's above his teammates or classmates."
Meadows earned plenty of notoriety over the summer as he played for Team Elite and also participated in the Under Armour All-American game at Wrigley Field, the Perfect Game Classic at Petco Park, the East Coast Pro showcase in Syracuse and the World Wood Bat championships in Jupiter, Fla. Last year, Meadows was a
MaxPreps Junior All-American
and he also won All-American honors from Rawlings and Under Armour.
Meadows said all of his play during the summer has helped prepare him for the pressure he would face as a potential high draft pick this year.
"I think this summer prepared me for my high school season," he said. "Playing at huge venues in front of scouts all summer made it easier to focus on my senior year and just having fun. I'm not saying I don't get a little nervous in big situations, but I try to stay focused and play my game."
Hixson said that all of the attention shown Meadows has helped his teammates as well.
"We have many other very talented players on our team and I think Austin's successes and the attention he has gotten have helped each of them to strive to be even better too," said Hixson. "Besides Austin, we have four or five other players who have plans of playing at the next level and as the season progresses I hope to see that number grow."
A three-sport athlete growing up, Meadows stopped playing basketball after his freshman year and did not play football this year after playing for three seasons during high school.
"I decided to focus on baseball for my senior year," he said. "But I also love to fish in my spare time at my grandparents' lake house at Lake Sinclair."
Growing up a in a small town outside of Atlanta, Meadows enjoys the support given to him by the community.
"I remember when our football team went to playoffs and the community lined the streets for miles sending us on our way to the (Georgia) Dome. It was pretty surreal," said Meadows. "My mom teaches in the community and my dad has always coached in the area so I feel like everyone knows everyone."
So much so that Meadows even knows the No. 1 prospect in the country, Loganville's Clint Frazier, since the two only live a few miles apart. The two hooked up in one of the most anticipated games of the season
with Frazier's team getting the win behind his two home runs.
Meadows didn't get much of an opportunity to show his wares as he walked, was hit by a pitch and struck out. However he did show his speed to the many scouts in attendance with a stolen base.
A number of mock drafts, however, still list Meadows as the top high school player to potentially be selected in June. It's something Meadows, who has already committed to Clemson, is grateful for.
"It would be a dream come true to be selected," he said. "I truly feel blessed to even be considered."
In the meantime, Meadows and his teammates would like to get another crack at a state championship after falling two games short last year.
"I expect us to make playoffs," he said. "It'd be great to go out with a bang and win the state. I think we have the talent to do it. We have good pitching, we have speed and power in the lineup. Hopefully we step up at the right time. We are starting to come together and need to continue to get better each game as the season progresses. I am having fun and want to help the team get to a state championship any way I can."