PREP BASEBALL: Central's Squires makes game look easy (5/27)

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By Chuck Jones

Baseball is not a simple game. It is a game of failure. Great Major League hitters hit .300, which means they fail 70 percent of the time. Players are going to make errors in the field and pitchers are going to give up runs.

The game isn’t easy, but Central Hardin senior Troy Squires makes it look that way.

When he’s at shortstop, everything looks so effortless. Squires is so smooth with the glove. He gets to balls most high school shortstops couldn’t imagine stopping. He has the arm strength to rifle throw after throw to first with pinpoint precision. Often hitters aren’t even close to first when the ball gets there. His sense of anticipation enables him to deliver game-changing plays.

In the batter’s box, Squires has a natural left-handed swing. It is picture perfect. It’s like Harry Potter wielding with his wand. He certainly has put in countless hours working on it. It is an exquisitely graceful swing that has made him one of the best hitters the area has seen.

Even this year when Squires has been called upon to pitch, he has done it and done it extremely well. There’s nothing Squires can’t seem to do on a baseball field.

“He’s a freak of natural,” said Zach Ditto, Squires’ teammate and good friend. “It’s unreal. He’s just a freak. He was born to play baseball.”

While Squires has been trouble-free on the diamond, things haven’t always been easy for him.

When Squires was in kindergarten, he became complaining to his parents – Scott and Mary Ann – of stomach pain. After noticing blood in his stool, Scott and Mary Ann knew something serious was wrong.

After consulting with doctors in Elizabethtown, Scott and Mary Ann were told he needed to go to Louisville. Squires spent the next three months in and out of Kosair’s Children Hospital, including a stay of more than 30 days.

“When we were at Kosair’s, he told me all I want to do is play baseball,” Scott said.

Squires underwent a number of tests, and at first, his parents were told he had colitis. Two surgeries later, it was discovered he had Crohn’s disease, which is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. It primarily causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting or weight loss.

But Squires wasn’t done. He had to wear a colostomy bag for an extended period of time. After it was discovered he had Crohn’s disease, he had another surgical treatment to insert a J pouch to help with digestion. Squires also had to fly to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“It’s was tough,” Squires said. “I didn’t know what I was going for. It was scary. I didn’t know what to think.”

Squires was finally able to return to doing what he wanted after more than a year – playing baseball.

“As soon as they said I could plan, it was game on,” Squires said.

It certainly has been. People marvel at the way he changed positions throughout his career. They adore his swing. They watch him now and they project a great future. They believe they were watching one of best baseball players to come through this area.

“He has been the key to a lot of their success the last few years,” Elizabethtown coach Don Pitts said. “He’s an all-around versatile guy. He could probably be the best player at whatever position Todd (Thompson) put him at. He’s always been a tough out. He’s been great for baseball.”

North Hardin coach Ace Adcock said he doesn’t think Squires gets the credit he deserves.

“Pitchers and catchers always get most of the attention,” Adcock said. “That’s just the way it is. My personal opinion is he’s probably one of the top two or three players in the region. He’s an unbelievable shortstop. He controls that team. He’s a spark plug in the leadoff spot. Being a former infielder, I always look there first and it’s like artwork watching him.”

Thompson, Central Hardin’s coach, has had the pleasure of coaching Squires during his five-year varsity career. He said Squires’ impact on the program can’t be calculated.

“I don’t think it will sink in until years down the road,” Thompson said. “He’s a tremendous asset to our program in every facet, not just the wins and what he has accomplished on the field. He’s been a leader, role model in the community and a great student.”

Not many players can boost a resume like Squires. He has been a part of four 17th District Tourenament championships and has a shot at a fourth 5th Region Tournament title starting today with a quarterfinal matchup with LaRue County.

Squires is Central Hardin’s leader in games played (157) and career hits (173). He has scored 160 runs to go with 108 RBIs. He has drawn 61 walks and only struck out 33 times in 456 at-bats, which is once in nearly every 14 trips. Squires’ career batting average is .379.

This season, Squires is hitting .448 with four doubles and one triple. He is second on the team in runs (38) and third in RBIs (21). He also has 13 stolen bases. Squires has struck out three times in 122 plate appearances.

“He’s very fluid with the bat,” Thompsons said. “He has a natural swing. He has good hand-eye coordination. He has all the tools. I believe his best days as far as hitting are yet to come.”

Squires can dissect each and every at-bat, saying what he did wrong. In the district tournament, he reached base 7-of-8 times. He focused on the one he didn’t, pulling off the ball and hitting a grounder to first.

“I’m definitely my worst enemy,” Squires said. “Sometimes I overthink things when I get up there. My freshman and sophomore years, it seemed like I didn’t have to hit. This year, I’m trying to find my pitch to hit. I’ve really tried to be a student of the game and that’s helped me in the box.”

Although he’s an outstanding hitter, that’s not the part of his game Squires takes the most satisfaction in. He played catcher as an eighth-grader to fill in for an injured Russ Morse and then moved to center field as a freshman. Midway through the season, Thompson switched Squires and shortstop Cannon Ray and Squires has been there ever since.

“That’s my pride and joy,” Squires said. “I’ve always loved defense. I’d rather make a diving play than hit a home run.”

Squires is one of the best shortstops to come through Hardin County, at least in the eyes of his coach.

“I can’t think of one (shortstop) I’ve played with in high school and college or coached that’s as good,” Thompsons said. “Demond (Thomas) was a great one. They are similar in a lot of ways. But Troy gets rid of the ball so well. I’ve never seen anyone like him.”

His work ethic and determination has earned him a shot to play at the University of Kentucky next season. Squires said he appreciates the Kentucky coaches for taking a chance on him, but most people thought college coaches were making a mistake not giving him an opportunity.

But Squires isn’t worried about waiting so long for a Division-I school to come calling. He’s not concerned with his legacy or where he ranks among Central Hardin’s all-time greats. The only thing on his mind these days is helping the team get to a fourth consecutive state tournament.

“I’m not counting my eggs before they hatch, but if we were to win another one, that would be special,” Squires said. “That would mean a lot, but I’m not looking back. We’re focused on taking it one game at a time and keep advancing. If we win another one, that would be something incredible and I’d feel blessed to be a part of it.”

Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or cjones@thenewsenterprise.com.