Casey Martin was named the Gatorade Arkansas Baseball Player of the Year last week, becoming the first Lonoke Jackrabbit to be so honored.
According to a Gatorade press release, the award recognizes athletic excellence, high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character on and off the field. Those standards “distinguish Martin as Arkansas’s best high school baseball player.”
Little Rock Central coach Rusty Passini, who saw Martin in an eight-inning, one-run Tiger victory in March, was quoted in the press release: “Without a doubt, Casey Martin is the best player in the state of Arkansas. He is probably the best position player to come out of the state in the last 10 years. He can completely take over a high school baseball game, and his teammates feed off of his energy and production.”
Martin, a 5-11, 175-pound senior shortstop/right-handed pitcher, hit .595 as the Jackrabbits’ lead-off batter this spring with 10 home runs, 13 doubles, six triples, 32 RBIs and 48 runs scored. He stole 34 bases. On the mound, Martin went 5-1 with three saves and a 1.52 ERA.
The Jackrabbits finished 21-13 and won the school’s first state tournament game since 2012 before falling in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.
Martin, who has signed with the University of Arkansas, is now a finalist for Gatorade’s National Baseball Player of the Year.
Chris Foor, the first-year Jackrabbit coach, said the award was big not just for Martin but for the entire LHS program.
“It shows where we want to go as a group,” Foor said. “And although Casey totally earned it as an individual, a lot of his numbers came because people couldn’t just walk him all the time. We had hitters up and down the lineup. Our whole team is taking pride in this.”
He mentioned the Jackrabbits’ No. 3 hitter, Haven Hunter, who hit almost .500; No. 4, Kade Stuart, who batted nearly .400; and No. 9 Kameron Cole.
“If Kameron doesn’t get on base, Casey’s not going to have all those RBIs,” Foor said.
Past state award winners from around the country have included Derek Jeter, Jon Lester, David Price, Clayton Keyshawn, Rick Purcell and Kris Bryant.
Arkansas’s last 10 winners include Evan Lee of Bryant, Andy Pagnozzi of Fayetteville, Trevor Ezell of Bryant, Carson Shaddy of Fayetteville, Trey Killian of Mountain Home, Dillon Howard of Searcy, Brandon Moore of Van Buren, D.J. Baxendale of Sylvan Hills, Tyler Wilson of Greenwood and Scott Simmons of Searcy.
Foor also coached Baxendale, the former Arkansas Razorback now playing AAA ball, when he was an assistant at Sylvan Hills.
“Where does Casey sit with him? In all true respects, he’s the best,” Foor said.
Martin has volunteered for his church youth group and with a local charity road race. He graduated with a 3.18 GPA.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program, according to the release, recognizes one winner in each state and the District of Columbia in high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball and boys and girls track and field. The selection committee works with sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of veteran high school sports journalists.