By Todd Wills
Special to the Daily Sun
Navarro catcher John Clay Reeves is back in the World Series.
Only this year it’s the JUCO World Series and Grand Junction, Colo., and not the NCAA Division I College World Series and famed Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. like it was in 2012.
It’s a quite a story. Reeves, from Monroe, La., was a backup catcher for the Arkansas Razorbacks this time last year, helping the Hogs beat Baylor in the Super Regionals to earn a trip to Omaha.
He decided to transfer to Navarro after the season, wanting increased playing time, and he’s stepped in and earned All-Region XIV and Eastern Conference Player of the Year honors.
Reeves, who has signed with Rice, came to Corsicana knowing he had a chance to help a sophomore-laden Bulldogs team make it to Grand Junction. And it’s happened.
“We’ve put together a great team all year,” Reeves said. “It’s great to get to that point where all of us are clicking. We’re getting to that spot where everyone wants to play well and everyone wants to play for each other.”
Reeves expected this kind of year offensively. Considered the Razorbacks “offensive catcher” as a true freshman last season, Reeves lost playing time to sophomore Jake Wise, who coaches considered the better defensive catcher. The Hogs gave up offense for defense — Wise batted only .244.
Reeves appeared in 28 games for Arkansas, 19 as a starter, and batted .281 with four RBIs in 57 at-bats. He did start two games in the Super Regional against Baylor as the Razorback stunned the Bears in an incredible three-game series in Waco.
He came to Navarro wanting to improve on those numbers and he has. He’s batting .376 in 53 games with three home runs and 38 RBIs, second to first baseman Tyler Wilson for the team lead.
And Reeves still isn’t satisfied, lamenting his power numbers, even though he played almost half of his games at pitcher-friendly Graham Field.
“I tried to hit .400 all year,” Reeves said. “I was close. I came up little short. My power numbers haven’t been quite like I wanted them to be. I’m just blessed to have the opportunity I have now.”
The key has been playing every day. At Arkansas, he just couldn’t find a rhythm.
“Last year I would play a game and wait two weeks, then play two games and sit two weeks,” Reeves said. “Getting to be in the lineup is just a blessing. You get to get a feel for what’s going on and kind of how the pitchers are going. You can get comfortable in the box and find your rhythm, which is hard to do when you’re sitting out games.”
Reeves has been just as successful handling the Bulldogs’ rotation of sophomore pitchers and a dominant bullpen. Navarro had the best team ERA in the region at 2.91 for the season.
Reeves caught top pitchers at Arkansas. Current Razorbacks junior Ryan Stanek should go in the first 10 picks of June’s Major League Entry Draft.
So coming in and handling Lukas Schiraldi, Gage Curry, Chad Young and Zach Hobbs plus closer Blake Griffin and the rest of the bullpen has been a smooth transition.
“Reeves has played a key part,” Navarro coach Whoa Dill said. “He had big time pitchers at Arkansas. He got to see first rounders. He handles the pitchers well. He calls his own game. He’s a good defender. He’s hitting .370.
“So not only is he doing one thing, he does all three of them. I’m pretty impressed watching what he does. He’s one of the best catchers we’ve had in a while. “
Reeves took it personally that he was considered an “offensive” player at Arkansas. He’s had more than a solid season defensively for the Bulldogs. He caught all four games in the regional tournament in Lufkin, taking a beating and fighting through sore knees.
He takes a lot of pride in his work as a catcher.
“Catching is more important than hitting every day of the week,” Reeves said. “An 0-for-4 day doesn’t bother me as much as not blocking balls or calling a good game.”