|12U 2011 Player to Watch|
by Field Reporter
A name that is making its way through the baseball community in Oklahoma and the nation, is #51 of the Oklahoma Rays - Justin Cooke (a/k/a “Cookie” or “Six”) – and should be on the short list as a TravelballSelect 12u 2011 Player to Watch. During his first season of “true” travel ball, Justin not only proved he could play with the Rays, he developed into a key player for them.
Justin Cooke became the Oklahoma Rays one and only catcher (with the exception of 2 games while he was pitching) from May through July 2010, after another player broke his leg and was out for the majority of the season. As one of the Rays nine players during that time period, the tournaments included 3 of the 4 Super NITs (Oklahoma, MidSouth at Southhaven and Memorial Day at KC), along with the AR/OK State Championship tournament which was played in 100+ degree temperatures (where he had the walk-off base hit clinching the championship game) – for a total of 26 consecutive games that Justin played as catcher. At the Elite 32, Justin was the main backstop as well, making several game-changing plays behind the plate, and during his at-bats. With his ability to keep most runners from thinking about stealing because of his fast throw-downs to second, trusted by the coaches to call games, and exceptional blocking skills, Justin has demonstrated his ability to be one of the top catchers/baseball players in the country.
Even though he was unable to be on the mound very much during 2010, Justin is a quality pitcher, able to consistently throw solid heat and work the entire strike zone – his development on the Rays pitching staff will continue in 2011. At the plate, Justin is an effective switch-hitter and his hitting reflects both power and average.
While there are many talented ball players in this age division, Justin is developing into a true 5-tool player – his top-notch defensive skills as a catcher/pitcher/outfielder, offensive skills as an effective switch-hitter and a fast/smart base runner, as well as just being a level-headed/coachable young man make him a truly gifted baseball player that puts him at the top of the crop. If you haven’t seen him play for the Oklahoma Rays yet, just watch a few games and you will see the passion that he displays for the game, his position and his team.