Baseball coaches don’t hand over the keys to center field to just anybody. The position is of such vital importance to a team’s defense that coaches will often sacrifice offensive production if it means having a steady glove in center.

St. Joseph’s College coach Will Sanborn is happy to learn he won’t have to sacrifice anything after handing the center field job to a sophomore transfer from Gardiner this season.

Sanborn saw the athleticism, range and the strong right arm that Dennis Meehan brought with him after a year at Husson University and figured it was worth giving the newcomer a shot in the middle of his defense.

“It’s been a learning process for him in the outfield,” Sanborn said. “He didn’t play there a lot in high school, so he’s had to work real hard on his outfield fundamentals.”

Sanborn is already impressed with Meehan’s commitment to improving.

“He’s the kind of quiet, hard-working guy that coaches love to have,” he said.

It can’t be easy for a transfer to drop into a program that has won the last five Great Northeast Atlantic Conference titles and is favored to win another this spring. Meehan has slowly started to feel more comfortable with his place on the team and his making himself invaluable to the middle of the batting order, too.

“I’m just trying play my role throughout the entire season — play good, solid defense, contribute in the situations you go through in the middle of the order with people on base, whether it’s bunt them over or hit and run or finding a way to drive them in, and just help the team get some key wins,” Meehan said.

Meehan played some left field and right field and also DH’d for the Eagles last year. In 39 games, batting in the middle of the Eagles’ order, he hit .244 with two home runs and 20 RBIs and tied for second on the team with five stolen bases.

“Last season, I was just trying to get over the nervousness of being a freshman and stepping into that role,” he said. “I wasn’t happy with what I did, but it wasn’t a bad season.”

Due to family considerations, he transferred to St. Joseph’s in Standish during the summer. Aside from one game between the Eagles and Monks last season (in which Meehan went 2-for-5 with two RBIs), Sanborn hadn’t seen much of Meehan and hadn’t recruited him out of Gardiner High School, where he was a two-time KVAC all-star. But after meeting with Meehan late in the summer, he gave him some at-bats during fall baseball. Meehan impressed and earned a spot on the spring roster.

He was in center field and batting fifth when the Monks opened their season in Florida on Valentine’s Day and has rarely left, playing in 13 of the Monks’ 14 games and starting 12. In 14 chances in the outfield, he’s committed one error, not too bad considering that, like most of us, he’s had limited exposure to the sun.

“We’ve played 14 games and not had an outdoor practice yet,” Sanborn said. “The fact that he’s held his own defensively so far, I just think he’s going to get better and better.”

Meehan is off to a solid start at the plate, too, batting .325 with five RBIs. Seven of his 13 hits have been doubles, tops on the team, and he’s scored eight runs.

“He’s a really strong kid. He’s got a good idea of what his plan is up at the plate,” Sanborn said. “He’s a doubles guy. He’s an RBI guy, and he doesn’t get cheated up there, which are things you want from a middle of the order guy.”

The Monks returned last week from their challenging Florida trip with a 6-8 record. They’re scheduled to resume the season on Friday at Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI.

“I just want to keep up the energy, keep the ball rolling,” said Meehan, a business management major, “because the key factors in winning and losing with us are energy and confidence.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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