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Published: June 23, 2009 10:32 pm     

HS BASEBALL: GI's Joel Klock is Gazette Player of the Year

By Nate Beutel
Niagara Gazette

While most high schoolers are preparing for graduation parties or trying to find the easiest part-time job, Joel Klock is working hard toward, in his eyes, the best job possible.

“I love pitching,” the Grand Island junior said on the eve of a regional tryout in front of New York Yankees scouts in Allentown, Pa., last week. “I couldn’t imagine getting paid to do it, though.”

At the rate Klock is mowing down hitters, that idea could become reality as soon as next spring when he is eligible to be selected in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft.

Klock’s performance this spring was so eye-popping that the southpaw earned the distinction of 2009 Niagara Gazette Baseball Player of the Year.

“We knew before the year that he was awfully good, but this season was incredible,” veteran Vikings coach Dean Santorio said. “Anytime he threw, we had a great chance to win with only a little run support. He’s just tough to handle for a hitter.”

Klock’s stat line only re-affirms Santorio’s statements. He compiled a 7-2 record with a pair of saves, while striking out 117 batters and amassing an ERA of 1.84. And for good measure, he hit .429 with 23 hits, 17 RBIs and 16 runs scored.

“That’s two great years in a row at the plate for him,” Santorio said. “His pitching speaks for itself, but people don’t realize that his hitting is right there, too.”

Not to mention, he helped GI win its first Section VI Championship since 1980.

Like all great players, though, Klock is never satisfied. In fact, he has a jam-packed schedule the rest of the summer, hoping to showcase and sharpen his skills while traveling throughout the country.

“I’ve consistently improved I think since about eighth grade and I don’t want to stop now,” he said. “I really think I can be better in all aspects of the game.”

That’s music to Santorio’s ears.

“Coaches already don’t want to face him and knowing Joel, he will be better next year,” the coach said. “That’s scary. I’m glad I don’t have to coach against him.”