It's been a long winter for Josh Whitaker.
The Augusta Christian Schools senior is a multiple-sport athlete, but he trimmed his rsum by one sport this year. After signing a baseball scholarship to Kennesaw State last fall, Whitaker chose to skip basketball season and concentrate solely on baseball.
It wasn't an easy choice.
"I know it was a good decision in the long run, but I really miss being out there," he said.
After a winter of practicing, Whitaker and the rest of the Augusta Christian baseball team, will hit the diamond Tuesday for the first time this season. The Lions will open up the year at home against Augusta Prep.
Whitaker, who watched basketball games from the stands this season, walked away from a starting spot on the varsity basketball squad in favor of a stronger arm and quicker feet.
"I've been working out with coach (Keith) Walton - speed training and working in the weight room," he said. "I can tell I'm stronger and faster."
A few Major League scouts have also taken notice.
"He's been given the opportunity to play on the next level," Augusta Christian baseball coach Craig Johnson said. "He has matured enough to know where he is right now has been good enough to get him here. Now he has to work harder to be competitive."
For now, Whitaker is about as good as it gets in the South Carolina Independent Schools Association. He was named SCISA Class AAA Player of the Year last season despite missing six games with a shoulder injury. Now fully healthy in 2007, he has even more potential to succeed.
His teammates said his talent is becoming more and more evident with each practice.
"He's the best player I've played with in all phases of the game," fellow senior Tyler Bourdo said. "In practice he crushes them into the woods. Even when he doesn't hit the ball good it still carries."
This season, Johnson said he'll move Whitaker from his regular spot at shortstop to first base.
The move comes out of necessity after the Lions lost last season's starter, Josh Sizemore, to graduation.
The move actually suits Whitaker's game better.
Kennesaw State officials said they plan to use him as a corner infielder.
"He's getting to that point right now where he's leading by a positive example," Johnson said. "He's running foul poles by himself when we get done. He's worked hard to get here."
Whitaker will also serve as one of the team's top pitchers this season.
Augusta Christian's home opener against Augusta Prep will begin at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday
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