HUNTINGTON - Huntington St. Joe's Lenny Washington has earned accolades since he was a freshman that place him among the best high school baseball players in the state, and now as a junior he is receiving attention from college and pro scouts.
Washington was a first team Class A all-state selection in each of his freshman and sophomore seasons. USA Today named him to the All-West Virginia second team last season as a utility player.
"The ball just sounds different off his bat than any kid I've been around," St. Joe head coach Dave Jenkins said. "Lenny is the real deal."
The University of Dayton would seem to agree. The Flyers made a scholarship offer to Washington. Several other colleges are showing interest and more offers will likely follow the completion of this season.
St. Joe (17-10-1) begins the Class A, Region IV tournament with a 6 p.m. Monday game at Wahama (24-6).
The 17-year-old said baseball is his favorite sport and has been the sole sport he plays.
"I started playing when I was eight," Washington said. "I played Little League in East Huntington. Baseball is just more fun."
Washington has the size, arm strength and bat speed that have drawn the interest from teams.
This season Washington has compiled a .577 batting average (41-for-71) with two home runs, 24 RBI, eight doubles and a triple at the plate.
Playing on traveling teams has given Washington appearances across the country where he was seen by college coaches and scouts representing professional teams.
Through workouts organized by travel ball teams and scouting organizations, Washington has talked to scouts from the Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers, home of Washington's favorite player, pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
Opposing coaches such as Mike Crosby of Man High School, have been impressed with Washington too. Crosby has been so impressed he has sent video of his own to "several scouts."
"Some of them were appreciative of the reminder," Crosby said. "Those were guys who had seen him maybe last year, but not since. (Washington)'s a better third baseman than he is a shortstop. His ball transition is so quick and he definitely has a gun on him.
"I have seen him hit line drives too, and what impressed me is he could go to the opposite field."
Washington said college recruiters and professional scouts have mostly been interested in his hitting although Jenkins has sent video of Washington pitching to those teams as well."I like pitching OK, but I love playing third (base)," Washington said.
After seeing him pitch a scout from the Rockies recommended getting into a workout routine to help develop his pitching. A travel ball coach developed a routine of throwing for Washington.
This season he's added consistency in getting top speed on his fastball. Washington said he's been clocked by a college coach during travel ball season hitting 91 mph and has developed an off-speed pitch to complement his fastball.
With onset of warm weather this spring, Washington has heated up along with the temperature.
"I hate throwing in cold weather," he said. "Guys will make fun of me because it can be 95 degrees and I'll be wearing a sweatshirt to stay warm. Once it's hot and I can feel the sweat coming through I know I'm warm."
That was the feeling he had coming into a game against Fairland when Washington pitched a perfect game in leading the Fighting Irish to a 10-0, five-inning victory over the Dragons on April 27.
The victory was the fourth this season for Washington who has an earned run average of 2.87 in 29 2/3 innings pitched with 49 strikeouts. Opponents have only been able to get a .215 batting average against him.
While all of this attention could go to his head, Jenkins said Washington remains a quiet leader in the St. Joe dugout.
"He's just a great kid," Jenkins said. "There's not a cocky bone in his body, and he helps us out around here with the younger guys."
While Washington had entertained thoughts of playing for the Dirtbags, a noted travel organization in Virginia that boasts on its website that it has 217 alumni who have gone on to play Major League Baseball plus many more that have earned college scholarships.
Instead, Washington chose to stay home and play for area travel teams so he can work with teammates to help them get better.
After struggling with two strained hamstrings a year ago, Washington has been able to stay healthy and on the field -- good for a St. Joe team that has only 11 players entering the postseason.
In sectional play, where the Fighting Irish came out of the loser's bracket to capture the Class A, Region IV, Section 2 championship, Washington had a .450 batting average (9-for-20), 11 runs scored, two triples, a grand slam and 11 RBI.