Monday, July 28, 2014

Teammates celebrate college signings together

By Greg Mast/Herald Sports Editor | 1/23/2013

Three Ottawa High School seniors have been classmates and teammates practically all of their lives.

Baseball has been the one sport all of them have excelled in together.

Three Ottawa High School seniors have been classmates and teammates practically all of their lives.

Baseball has been the one sport all of them have excelled in together.

Kaden Shaffer, Taylor Graf and Greyson LaPlant have been members of successful baseball teams from day one.

The trio helped lead their age group to several Babe Ruth state championships.

They were a big part of Ottawa High School’s third-place state team last year and looking toward bringing home a state title this spring.

All three were recruited by college coaches. The trio took visits and made their decisions.

Shaffer decided to attend Fort Scott Community College, while Greyson and Graf will be teammates at Pratt Community College.

The players decided it would be best if they signed their letters together in one ceremony. It became official Wednesday in the school library in front of a packed house of students and friends.

“We have grown up with each other. That is why we chose to sign with each other,” Graf said.         “We all have the same friends. It was awesome. It is nice we have support of our fellow students.”

Shaffer said it was nice to see so many people come to their signing.

OHS and Ottawa American Legion baseball coach Shawn Herrmann said all three of those players have what college coaches desire.

“They understand baseball,” he said. “They understand what it takes to win. They can play multiple positions. That is huge.

“They know how to do things. They will make impacts right away. They want to pursue four-year careers.”

Kaden Shaffer

For Shaffer, his decision came down to what felt right.

He said Fort Scott had what he was looking for.

“I really liked the coach on the visit,” he said. “They take academics seriously.”

Shaffer’s goal to is play at a four-year school and academics is a big part of it.

Shaffer can do about everything. He can play the outfield, infield and pitch. He can hit for power and average.

The Cyclone said the Greyhound coaches want him to play third base and possibly second base.

“They like my ability to play other positions,” Shaffer said.

“They liked my speed, how I field the ball. They liked my ability to hit the ball gap-to-gap.”

Taylor said Shaffer will make Fort Scott a team to reckon with in the Jayhawk East.

“He can hit for power,” Taylor said. “He can drive in runs. He can contribute right away. He will bring a lot to their program.”

Greyson said Fort Scott is getting a great player, but more important a great eammate.

Greyson LaPlant

LaPlant is an anchor behind the plate. He also can play the infield.

He handles the bat well enough to hit in the No. 2 hole, but has power and average to move down into the heart of the order.

LaPlant and Taylor visited Pratt together, but made their decisions separately.

“We knew it was an individual choice,” LaPlant said. “We talked about it quite a bit. It took me a couple of weeks to commit.”

LaPlant said it will be nice to continue playing with Graf.

“You build a bond. It is cool to go on with Taylor. It has been special,” he said.

Greyson said the Pratt coaches emphasized the physical part of the game and lets the catchers have the freedom to call the game.

“It will be a challenge,” he said.

Taylor Graf

Graf is a sparkplug kind of player, which can play the middle infield, catch and pitch.

He has been a good leadoff hitter for the Cyclones.

Graf said it is nice to continue playing with Greyson and watch each other develop at the collegiate level.

Graf said the coaches made an impact on his decision.

“The coaches are really young. I like the energy they bring,” he said.

Graf said Pratt graduates its middle infielders this spring and he will have a chance to earn a starting spot right away next season.

Shaffer said Pratt is lucky to have his teammates.

“They will bring hard work and intensity to Pratt,” Shaffer said.

Herrmann said the trio will be an asset on and off the field to those programs.

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