How many baseball fans knew of Koji Uehara, the Red Sox closer who enjoyed an incredible season on the way to a World Series win, on Opening Day last year?
If they’re honest, not many.
One of the best things about a new season is that it invites players that are relatively unknown to step into the limelight. This is especially true in high school, where graduation naturally creates jobs for hungry players to win.
So, who are some of the ballplayers whose names North Shore high school baseball fans might not know today, but will probably know quite well by the middle of June? As an aside, the players we chose are mostly not returning conference all-stars or all-state selections. There are a half dozen players that jump out in that category as well, but today we’ll focus on some under-the-radar types.
Jhon Oliveira, Bishop Fenwick
A junior outfielder with all kinds of speed, Oliveira may be the key to Bishop Fenwick’s fortunes at the plate this spring. He had a pretty good sophomore season, hitting .385 while scoring 17 runs. Hitting behind speedy Eric Razney and in front of powerful Nick Bona, Oliveira should be a handful for opposing pitchers if he gets on base.
“We’re hoping he can be even better, and he was very good last year,” said Fenwick coach Kevin Canty. Oliveria stole 11 bases last season, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think he could double that output.
“He likes doing it. He’s usually telling me, ‘Coach, I feel like I can go’ and he can. Stealing is a skill and he has it,” Canty added.
Austin Michel, Hamilton-Wenham
A starter since his freshman season, Michel has played a variety of positions for Hamilton-Wenham. Now a junior, he’s settling in as his team’s ace. Like anybody playing varsity ball as a ninth grader, he took some lumps against bigger, stronger teams the last two years. This year, however, he could emerge as one of the top throwers in the Cape Ann League.