John Wooten: News-Argus Baseball Player of the Year
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on June 22, 2008 2:04 AM
Spend five minutes with John Wooten and it's easy to tell the only statistic that matters to the Eastern Wayne third baseman and hard-throwing reliever is the number in the win column.
Wooten finished the season with a .551 batting average to go along with five saves and 57 strikeouts in 50 innings. His .551 average was the highest single-season average any player has produced under 16-year Eastern Wayne head coach Jabo Fulghum.
More importantly, the junior was part of a Warriors squad that won their first regular-season conference championship since 1989 and helped Fulghum earn his first two postseason victories.
For his efforts, Wooten is the 2008 News-Argus All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.
"This season we were just looking at having a great team and looking to win," said Wooten, who has verbally committed to East Carolina. "We had a lot of guys coming back and we were just looking forward to playing.
"Going into the season I wasn't looking at having a .551 batting average. I was just looking at helping the team win."
After working 77 innings in primarily a starter's role in 2007, Wooten developed into the type of reliable closer in 2008 most high school coaches dream of having on their roster.
By spending the first few innings of a ballgame in the field, Wooten was able to mentally stay in the ballgame before being called upon to shut down an opponent in the later innings.
"Playing third, I get loose and when I get on the mound I'm ready to go," said Wooten. "My arm is loose, and I just pour it in there and get the job done. I like pitching because I feel like I'm in control, especially if we're in the lead."
Along with setting a new single-season record for batting average, Wooten also raised the bar at Eastern Wayne for hits in a season with 49. When he was one hit of shy of the program's previous single-season mark of 36, Wooten admits pressed a bit at the plate.
Until he got some advice from teammate and best friend Walker Gourley.
"When I got to 35 hits I thought 'I'm about to break the school record,'" said Wooten. "We were playing Spring Creek and I went 0-for-3. I was hanging out with Walker Gourley. He told me I was pressing so hard and the more I forced things the harder it would be.
"The next game we played C.B. Aycock and I went 3-for-4."
The son of a former major leaguer with the Kansas City Royals, Wooten possesses the rare ability to lead by words while setting an example with his steady play on the field.
"All the numbers and all the things John has done, he won't boast about it," said Fulghum. "He isn't one that is going to sit around and be selfish. He is the first one to thank his teammates if he gets a save or the first one out of the dugout if someone gets a sac bunt.
"Between the ears he has what it takes."
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