Knowledge of the game puts Van Deusen a cut above

May 10, 1992|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Staff writer

He's still the same adept fielder who earned first-team All-County honors as a sophomore when he handled 57 chances without an error.

But as a senior, Brian Van Deusen has matured into a dangerous hitter who has stung the ball for a .450 (27-for-60) average, including a Baltimore-area high of 11 doubles.

Van Deusen also has a triple, a home run and 16 RBI. He has struck out only three times. His on-base percentage is .500. His slugging percentage is a lofty .717.

Most impressive has been his ability to hit in the clutch. He is 12-for-19 (.632) with runners in scoring position.

The words "knowledgeable," "polished" and "coachable" slip off the tongues of his coaches in describing the slick-fielding second baseman.

"He's got the savvy and does the little things that other kids don't do," Atholton coach Kevin Kelly said. "He's a cut above other players, even though he doesn't have great natural athletic ability."

A play in a game last week against Centennial illustrated Kelly's point. With Centennial's fastest runner at second base, Van Deusen backhanded a grounder up the middle. Out of the corner of his eye, Van Deusen noticed the runner was going to third base, so he wheeled and threw him out at third.

"Most kids, 99 percent of them, would have thrown that ball to first base," Kelly said.

Van Deusen, 6-foot-2, 160 pounds, has other moves that sometimes catch opposing players off guard.

"When guys steal second, he catches the throw and runs a few steps into the outfield, and then looks back to see if the guy comes off the base," Kelly said. "I've seen him tag people out that way."

He's also been known to fake a double-play throw to first base, then pick off a runner at third.

Van Deusen's one flaw is his lack of speed.

"Brian can't run a lick," Kelly says.

But that doesn't make Van Deusen a poor base runner. Twice this year he's turned what normally would be ground-ball singles between third base and shortstop into doubles simply through heads-up play and hustle.

"I noticed the left fielder was slow in handling the ball, so I took second," Van Deusen said.

Van Deusen, who turns 18 on Friday has been an Atholton baseball fan as long as he can remember. He was only 4 years old when he began as the team's batboy.

His father, Don, a former minor-league baseball player and an outstanding fast-pitch softball player, coached the team then. In fact, Don coached baseball through Brian's sophomore season at Atholton, before giving it up to become athletic director.

The father-son relationship was something the two enjoyed on the athletic field. But it was sometimes disadvantageous for Brian.

"Some people said I only made the varsity team as a sophomore because my father was the coach," Brian said. "It was hard

sometimes to listen to things you heard, but I'd do it again. My sophomore season was a fun year."

Atholton won a county championship and made it to the regional finals that year, losing to the eventual state champ, Allegany.

Van Deusen hit .292 and set a school record with 16 sacrifice bunts.

His junior year the team slumped, but Van Deusen batted .296 and was voted the team MVP.

His improvement at the plate this year was no surprise. He batted .340 last summer for the Columbia Reds under-18 team against some tough Baltimore Metro League competition.

Baseball is Van Deusen's favorite sport, but he also played football and basketball.

In football, he was the county's top quarterback and Offensive Player of the Year, completing 142 of 283 passes for 1,631 yards and 18 touchdowns out of a run-and-shoot, no-huddle offense. The Raiders finished 6-4 and third in the league.

The basketball team suffered through a tough season with an ineligible player and key injuries, but he averaged 14.8 points.

Van Deusen hasn't decided on a college. But his 3.8 grade point average shows he's more than just an athlete. He ranks 17th academically in a class of 266.

He's been offered four partial academic scholarships: to Concord College (his father's alma mater), Lebanon Valley, West Virginia Wesleyan and Western Maryland. Towson State and Salisbury State are also possibilities.

"I have to decide if I want to play Division III football and baseball (at Concord or Western Maryland), or just play baseball at West Virginia ( Division II) or Towson State (Division I)," Van Deusen said.

He'll put that decision off until after baseball season, as the Raiders try to wrap up another county title Monday, and then enter regional competition at the end of this week.

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