You can't really discuss baseball at East Mills over the last five years without starting with 2017 Corner Conference Baseball Player of the Year Matt Glockel. In five years Glockel has gone from wide-eyed eighth grader in catcher's gear to the best player in the league.
"I never played catcher before junior high," said Glockel. "I really felt like a fish out of water at times, but I figured things out eventually."
He might have struggled behind the plate that first season, but his .319 average was 11th best in the conference. As a 9th grader he was regarded as a good defensive catcher and his average of .442 was 6th best in the league.
"I worked hard at it every year. It's not magic and its really hot under the helmet - batting or catching," said Glockel, "It was something I wanted to be better at and playing catcher just takes experience. The hitting came a little faster."
His senior season was nothing short of stellar. Widely regarded as one of the best (if not the outright best) defensive players in the conference, Glockel hit an even .500 (tied for first in the league) with just over half of his 39 hits of the extra base variety.
"I always hit the ball hard, but what I don't think people realize is I got a lot faster," said Glockel. "Some of what looks like an increase in power if you read stats is actually me turning singles into doubles."
His 15 two-base hits are far and away the best total in the league. His three homers were also league best. His 35 BI were second best, and his slugging percentage of .859 was untouched. This catcher who behind the plate more than 100 games in his career was also second in the league in triples this season.
"Seriously, getting faster helped me in every sport, especially baseball. Offense and defense," said Glockel. "There is something about playing catcher and having the arm strength and explosiveness to throw guys out on the basepaths."
Don't wander too far off base or try to steal without a good jump. That got you into trouble on Glockel's watch.
"Throwing behind guys, there is something so satisfying nailing a runner like that," said Glockel. "Even when they respected my arm and played it close to the base or didn't run, it filled me with more confidence because I knew I could affect that game and disrupt the other team's offense." Glockel gunned down seven runners this season attempting to steal.
He was also catching the night his brother Trevor pitched 3 1/3 innings of relief to pick up a critical win in a late season showdown with eventual league champion Fremont-Mills. "It was weird going home to the same house as the guy pitching. It was something new. I gave him a lot more crap than I would a pitcher I wasn't related to," said Glockel. "He is a tough kid and he did a great job pitching. I knew he could take it."
For the last five years Matt Glockel has been every bit a fixture as the Malvern water tower looming above the field. 2018 just won't be the same without him.
2016 - Chad Blank, Nishnabotna
2015 - Mackenzy Lang, Fremont-Mills
2014 - Austin Switzer, Fremont-Mills
2013 - Joseph Heitshusen, Nishnabotna