Austin Hedges hasn't been out of high school long, and he'll always cherish the memories. But the San Antonio Missions catcher and San Diego Padres prospect doesn't waste a lot of time reliving the glory days.
"We were always good," Hedges said of his San Juan Capistrano's Junipero Serra High School team in California. "Made it to the playoffs, won a league championship one year, had a lot of good talent. We never won any state championships, but we had a pretty good team."
That's about as much looking back as Hedges will allow himself. When he looks out from behind the plate these days, he's not only locked in on his pitcher, he's focused on his future.
"I just try to get more consistent every day," Hedges said. "I thought I got a lot better this year with pitch-calling and working with the pitchers and showing that my bat is a lot more advanced than people give me credit for."
The scouts began to flock to Hedges, who was considering attending UCLA, during his senior year, and the Padres wooed him when they drafted him in the second round in 2011 and gave him a $3 million bonus.
"That definitely helps," said Hedges, who celebrated his 21st birthday Monday. "But I was just ready to play ball every day. The Padres are a good organization to be in."
As a high school catcher, Hedges showed proficiency beyond his years when it came to his defense, game knowledge and work with a staff. The scouts especially liked his arm strength -- he threw out 32 percent of would-be base stealers in the Midwest League last year -- his soft hands and his blocking ability.
"You definitely look at a lot of guys who catch in the big leagues right now," said Hedges, 6-foot-1, 190 pounds. "They're not all big-time offensive guys, but a lot of guys make it and can catch for a lot of years by just working with the staff, and pitchers liking to throw to them, doing their job behind the plate and letting the offense come."
Hedges, who played his first game with San Antonio on Aug. 1, may have a reputation built on his defense, but he hit .279 with Class A Fort Wayne last year before batting .270 in 66 games at Class A Lake Elsinore to open this season.
"I'm not happy with any part of my game," said Hedges, batting .176 with San Antonio entering Monday. "I want every part of my game to get better."
Few are in a better spot than Hedges to understand why hitting in Double-A is a little harder. After all, he works with pitchers every night.
"I think the pitching is definitely more consistent," he said. "A lot more strikes, a lot more offspeed for strikes that they can really throw whenever they want. It's a lot of fun to catch all these guys, work with them, develop a relationship and try to come up with a good game plan for hitters."
Despite his struggles at the plate, Hedges is enjoying the game just as much as he did in high school.
"I've always dreamed of making the big leagues, but also it's the most fun I ever have in life. So I'm always happy to be out here playing the game," he said.
Close quarters: The Springfield Cardinals' 4-0 victory over Arkansas on Aug. 3 began a seven-game winning streak and started a seven-game losing streak for the Travelers. But entering Monday the first-place Cards held just a one-game lead over the Travs in the North Division, while Northwest Arkansas and Tulsa were both two games back.
Better late: Corpus Christi's 10-inning victory over Arkansas on Sunday was the 10th extra-inning victory in 13 tries for the Hooks this year. In its previous nine victories, Corpus Christi rallied in the eighth inning or later to take the lead.
Odor Time: Frisco's Rougned Odor ripped game-winning singles in the ninth inning on consecutive nights Friday and Saturday to beat Tulsa. The score was 6-5 in each game, and the RoughRiders completed the sweep with a 10-4 victory Sunday.