Originally created 03/23/06

Junior working on his major



Demetrius Washington's life keeps soaring skyward.

He hit .389 for Silver Bluff last season and led the Augusta area with nine triples. He's 6 feet tall and weighs 175 pounds. The scouts say his best position is center field, but he plays shortstop for Silver Bluff because that's what is best for the team.

Everything he does is fast. He runs fast. He can throw a baseball 91 miles an hour, but swinging a bat very fast is what he does best.

It appears he is on the fast track to professional baseball. He's got the right reference material to entertain those thoughts.

He has been invited to play for the United States Junior Olympics team next September in Cuba. The invitations were mailed to the top 144 young players in the nation. Only the best amateur players younger than 19 got the letters from USA Baseball.

He has earned an invitation to the AFLAC All-American High School Game this summer. He has been invited - directly by Major League Baseball - to the premier East Coast Showcase scouting event in Wilmington, N.C., this summer.

His family has set a goal to be a first-round pick in the major league amateur draft in 2007. If someone said that's out of the reach of a youth from Petticoat Junction, he'd wince.

He might even be a bit offended. Not many know how hard he has worked to see letters like those.

"The thing about Demetrius is he wants to be great," Silver Bluff coach Keith Radford said. "Most do. But he's different because he works his tail off. He puts the time in to train his God-given gifts."

Washington takes a radical approach. There's no such thing as too much individual practice.

He takes dozens of swings in front of a mirror every day. Washington videotapes them. He has thought of baseball as a job since he was 12 years old.

"I bet the neighbors think our house came with a built-in pitching machine in the back," said Nestor Washington, Demetrius' father. "He's had a batting cage for three or four years now. And he wears it out."

The longest Demetrius said he has gone without touching a baseball in the past five years is about five days.

"Let's say I had a dollar," Nestor Washington said. "No. Make it a dime for every ball I've thrown him or every swing he's taken in our yard. I'd have enough money to buy where I work.

"And I work at Savannah River Site."

A typical day is 500 to 1,000 swings. There are very few, if any, players in this area who maintain that regimen. It seems as if taking things too far is the only way he'll know how far he can go.

"I hear all the good things people say," Washington said. "I've got those letters. But that doesn't mean my work is done. It means I have a chance to do something playing baseball."

The funny part is he has struggled this year. All he saw during summer travel ball were pitchers who threw between 87 and 95 mph. He could hit those guys.

The pitchers he has seen so far this season barely throw 80 mph. It's tough adjusting the timing to slow down his rattlesnake-quick wrists. He went four games without a hit. He was hitting .200 after nine games this year, but the Silver Bluff stat charts recorded him as making solid contact on two-thirds of his at-bats this year. He was just off.

So he worked harder on finding that timing.

"My proud moments are seeing him go out after playing or practice to take more swings in the backyard," Nestor Washington said. "I don't need to say a word. He does it all on his own."

It paid off in a 5-for-5 performance against Aiken on Monday.

Washington has heard about the can't-miss kids who somehow missed out on a bright future.

"That's why I work so hard," Washington said. "So I know if I don't make it to the major leagues, it will not be because I didn't give it all I could."

That's why on rainy days he leaves his own batting cage and drives to Evans to the indoor batting cages at the Five-Tool Baseball Academy.

"Every night I go to bed knowing all of this is worth it," Washington said. "I don't sleep right if I lay down knowing I didn't do the work I needed. I won't burn out like this. I'm burning up to play baseball.

"I go to bed knowing what's to come and how much harder I have to work. I wake up every morning ready to go ahead. Knowing I have to work again the next day and to do it all again full-throttle."