06/20/09 — John Wooten named baseball Player of the Year

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John Wooten named baseball Player of the Year

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on June 20, 2009 11:16 PM

What most may view as a knack for delivering in the clutch, those closest to John Wooten simply see it as the fruits of countless hours of hard work.

Wooten, the talented third baseman and closer for Eastern Wayne, is the 2009 News-Argus All-Area Baseball Position Player of the Year. He helped guide the Warriors to a 26-6 record and the state finals while earning POY honors for the second consecutive season in conference play.

An East Carolina signee and 20th round draft pick by the San Diego Padres, Wooten finished the season with a .540 batting average, 18 home runs and 55 RBI. Eight of Wooten's 18 homers came during the postseason.

Included in those eight playoff dingers are two three-run shots in a comeback win over West Brunswick and a grand slam in a come-from-behind triumph over Northern Nash. Wooten also went deep in his final high school at-bat against Lake Norman in the state finals.

He finished 8-1 on the mound this season with five saves and recorded 51 strikeouts. Five of those eight wins came during the postseason.

A work ethic instilled in him by his father (Sonny) and older brother (Graham) along with lifelong friend and teammate Walker Gourley, has fueled Wooten's success in critical situations.

Prior to the 2009 season, Wooten dedicated himself to a rigorous training schedule with former Mount Olive College player Shawn Hicks.

"Shawn worked with me over the winter and he really helped me improve my strength, my agility and my speed," said Wooten. "He also helped my power and my arm strength. I owe a lot to that guy."

A matured and more-patient approach at the plate along with the ability to hit off-speed pitches paid dividends for Wooten. His .540 average fell just short of matching the school record (.551) he set during the 2008 season. The 47 hits he compiled this year just missed tying the record of 49 he tallied a season ago.

"From the time John has been at Eastern Wayne he's always been able to hit the ball hard," said Warriors head coach Jabo Fulghum. "He laid off a lot of off-speed stuff the older he got and he learned the strike zone a lot more and that's what helped him. He was able to hit the off-speed pitch and at an early age he wasn't able to.

"His patience at the plate was better than it was the year before."

Wooten remains undecided about what his future holds, but remains adamant about his excitement toward playing college baseball.

"I don't have a clue," Wooten said of his future. "As of right now, I'm looking forward to going to school. If anything changes I'll cross that bridge whenever it's in front of me I guess."

Wooten's days in an Eastern Wayne uniform are over although his contribution to the program through the example he set for younger generations will continue to ring as loudly as one of his signature towering home runs.

"It feels good knowing that I can be someone that younger players can look up to," said Wooten. "I know I've left some records at Eastern Wayne, but I hope someone comes along and beats them. I know if someone works hard to do it and I worked hard to do it, it will make me just as happy for them."