As far as Reese Gregory is concerned, he has the dream summer planned.
He will play for the Waite Park Silver Stars American Legion baseball team and start for the Ultimate Sports Bar & Grill Snappers amateur baseball team. In between that, he plans in the Lions’ All-Star Series for the state’s outstanding senior baseball players.
And when he’s not playing, he likely will be working on the grounds crew at Dick Putz and Joe Faber Fields.
If you’re a baseball guy, you can’t beat it.
“It’s my passion,” Gregory said.
Any doubts about his passion were laid rest during the Section 8-3A playoffs. The senior right-hander threw three complete games in five days, ultimately falling short to Bemidji, 2-1 in the section final.
“The thing is, we had him on a pitch count all season,” Apollo head coach Nik Peterson said. “We were being careful with him.”
The Eagles had their best season in a dozen years, winning the Central Lakes Conference and going 22-3. Gregory led the way. For his efforts, he has been named the Times’ baseball Player of the Year.
Gregory heads an 11-person team selected by the Times’ sports staff based on coaches’ recommendations. It includes Gregory and Apollo teammate Tyler Mueller, St. Cloud Cathedral’s Jeff Fasching, Brian Minks and Waylon Bemboom, Little Falls’ Collin Eckman and Joey Hanowski, Rocori’s Austin Athmann, Paynesville’s Josh Bungum, Albany’s Scott Litchy and Eden Valley-Watkins’ Brendan Ashton.
Gregory was the dominant pitcher in a year when pitchers dominated as high school hitters adjusted to the new BBCOR bats that took some offense from the game.
The right-hander struck out 110 batters in 64 innings, walking five. He went 10-1, his only loss to Bemidji in the section final, when he threw a complete game 24 hours after beating the Lumberjacks, 4-0.
“I have no regrets on the season,” Gregory said. “We came out and played our hearts out and that’s all you really can do.”
Gregory was a position starter and key hitter for the Eagles for the third straight season.
He plays a flawless third base and batted .393 this season, though Peterson said he didn’t hit as well as previous seasons.
He agreed that Gregory was pitched around quite a bit as Apollo’s No. 3 hitter and with a reputation of being a tough out.
For Gregory, he said the highlight of the season for him personally was beating Rocori three times on the mound.
“That was a pretty big highlight of the season, shutting down a good team like Rocori three times,” he said. “It’s not easy.
“They are always tough.”
Gregory accepted a baseball scholarship from St. Cloud State last fall. He is thinking about majoring in recreation and sports management and wants to be around sports.
He also was a goalie on Apollo’s hockey team.
He said it improved his agility. And that’s a key thing for Gregory: he improved his conditioning and strength.
“When I was younger, I was a chunkster,” he said.
Ryne Gregory, his older brother and Waite Park’s legion coach, coerced his younger brother into a conditioning program that included a lot of running.
He sort of became Reese’s personal trainer.
He dominates on the mound because not only does he have a plus-velocity fastball, but he also changes arm positions. He rarely gives a batter the exact same pattern or look in consecutive at-bats.
“I try to give them a different look with every pitch,” Gregory said.
His success on the mound may have St. Cloud State’s coaches rethinking his future.
Initially recruited to play third base and hit, he may also have an opportunity to pitch.
That would be fine with Gregory because, whatever he does, it’s baseball.
“It (baseball) has been my passion ever since I can remember,” he said. “It’s all I’ve wanted to do.”