When Jonathan Denney joined Yukon's baseball team a few years ago, coach Kevin James knew he had a special talent.
But James had to figure out how to rein in his catcher.
Denney was sometimes too quick behind the plate, not giving umpires a chance to get a good look at pitches.
“There were times he'd come up so quick to throw down that he'd take away pitches from our pitchers,” James said. “He's the quickest catcher I've ever seen.”
Denney settled in nicely, though, becoming one of the best high school catchers in the nation, solid defensively and feared on offense.
Denney is The Oklahoman's All-State and Big All-City Player of the Year.
Denney's stats were very good — he hit .459 with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs.
But his worth to the Millers goes far beyond that.
Virtually no one tried to run on Denney this season, and he even affected how teams were able to advance.
“Last year, for him to be a factor as far as defensively in the game, he'd backpick guys at first, backpick guys at second,” James said. “Now, they weren't even taking a lead at first. It held guys in check. If a guy's on first base, a double didn't necessarily score him. If he was on second, a single didn't necessarily score him.
“Now that I don't have him back there anymore, I'm going to have to go back to coaching now.”
C.J. Medlin hasn't been around Denney nearly as long as James, but Medlin has seen Denney improve quite a bit over the past few months.
Medlin, a former minor league catcher who played at Seminole State, has been Denney's catching instructor for about the last year.
“He's made a ton of strides,” Medlin said. “He's really grown, not just athletically and physically, but maturity wise. He handles things better now.”
Friday, Denney was picked by the Boston Red Sox in the third round, No. 81 overall.
The pick was later than Denney was expected to go. But Denney was excited about the prospect of playing for Boston, saying on Twitter that he'd been a lifelong Red Sox fan.
Medlin said he hadn't talked to Denney much since he'd been picked but said he had a difficult choice in front of him. Denney has also signed with Arkansas.
“He's got a big decision on his plate,” Medlin said. “There's going to be a lot of paperwork and money thrown in front of him with enticing offers from both sides. But I know he's a guy that's eager and wanting to show what he can do in baseball wherever he goes.”
For the most part, Denney was at his best against the best competition, especially when the Millers made a Spring Break trip to Arizona.
On the trip, he hit against pitchers that had signed with Arizona State and Gonzaga. Denney struggled a bit when the Millers returned and pitchers in the state stopped pitching to him much.
Denney took 40 walks this season. He did strike out 20 times, sometimes chasing pitches out of the zone when pitchers tried to work around him.
“What I'm thinking is when he starts seeing the good stuff all the time, he's really going to hit well,” James said. “Better pitchers are going to have to pitch to him.”