CRETE | When you see his baseball numbers, it is hard to believe that John McLaughlin didn't do a lot of hitting as a freshman.
McLaughlin leads Crete-Monee in hitting with a .485 average and tops the Warriors in hits (48), doubles (14), homers (4) and runs (22). The senior's slugging percentage is .727 and his on-base percentage is .514. McLaughlin has struck out just eight times in 99 at-bats.
Veteran Warriors coach Gene Cahan brought McLaughlin up as a freshman and just wanted him to concentrate on catching and throwing out runners.
"I didn't let him bat a lot as a freshman," Cahan said. "I knew it was a big jump from freshman ball to varsity, so I told John to just concentrate on catching. I knew he had a strong arm and we needed a catcher."
McLaughlin led the Warriors in batting the past two seasons with a .407 average as a sophomore and .444 last year. Twice he was a Times second-team all-area selection.
Perfecting his behind-the-plate skills and learning how to work with pitchers was just fine with McLaughlin, who will play at Kankakee Community College next year.
"I thought it was pretty intimidating," McLaughlin said of his move to the varsity. "Coach told me I was going to varsity, but once the season started and I got into the routine, I calmed down. I knew I could catch and throw, it was a matter of working on my hitting."
One thing he developed was patience as the plate as well as behind it. Usually the No. 3 hitter in the lineup, he knows he has to make offense happen.
"I got a good eye and I see the ball really well," McLaughlin said. "It is a matter of knowing when to sit back for your pitch and go with it. I get a lot of hits to the opposite field and that is because I can adjust.
"This year, I think I have been a little more aggressive at the plate."
He also has been more aggressive behind the plate. In addition to having a good arm, McLaughlin has picked a few runners off base. McLaughlin has thrown out 15-of-33 would-be base stealers and has picked off 11 runners. His 26 assists lead the team.
He said catching is more than calling for a changeup or for a pitch inside.
"There is a mental part to this game and you have to be on top of it," he said. "The pitchers also rely on me as does the team, and through the years I have watched other catchers and worked on developing that part of my game.
"I think you have to have your head in the game as well."
Cahan, who was a catcher, said it has been great to see McLaughlin develop into the player he is.
"I am not the easiest guy to catch for because of that, but he never complains," Cahan said. "He really worked hard on learning how to be a catcher and has become a leader."