Port Orange — A lot of people know who LeVon Washington is these days. The Gainesville Buchholz center fielder’s speedy reputation has made its way around the state, including to the bathrooms at their Class 6A, Region 1 first-round opponent, Port Orange Spruce Creek, Tuesday night.
“When I was in the bathroom (before the game), a guy told me they did a scouting report on me and saw on the Internet that I ran a 6.2,” Washington said of his 60-yard dash speed. “They already knew about me. The guy asked me if I was LeVon and said they did a whole report on me.”
But it didn’t matter. Washington wreaked havoc on the base paths at Spruce Creek, leading Buchholz to an 8-4 victory.
“This is real big for us because we haven’t been winning consistently,” Washington said with his iPod earphones in and two bats over his shoulder. The center fielder went 2-for-2 with two walks on the night.
The havoc started early. Washington started the game by lining a ball off the glove of a diving third baseman. Before the next pitch was thrown, Spruce Creek pitcher Chase Sofiak threw over to first base more than five straight times. The fans grew frustrated, but Washington understands. It’s a tactic he is seeing more and more.
“That’s the right thing to do,” Washington said after his team improved to 16-11. “I get tired when you keep throwing over there so I had to call time a lot.”
Tired or not, he still took off when the first pitch was finally thrown to the next batter. Safe again and by a long shot.
When he’s on base, there isn’t much a high school team can do. Any pitch on which Washington doesn’t steal almost feels like a wasted opportunity. Sometimes watching him steal second, you almost wonder why he doesn’t continue on to third.
Athletes make things look easy. Tuesday night, Washington went from first to third on a base hit without drawing a throw. His speed makes him a perfect fit for the leadoff position of the batting order. If he starts an inning by getting on base, it’s likely to be a long inning for the pitcher.
Lately Washington has been more creative in how he gets on base. He has seen fewer pitches to hit as the season has progressed, with his reputation growing. That trend has resulted in more walks.
“I just try to get on base anyway I can, whether it’s by walks or hit by a pitch or by a hit,” Washington said. “I get pitched around a lot. I don’t mind walking, but I really like hitting.”
Some high school players create interest from Major League teams by hitting 90 miles per hour on a radar gun or hitting monstrous home runs. Washington’s interest came after ripping off a blazing 6.21 60-yard dash, making him the fastest high school baseball player in the country.
With the MLB Draft looming on June 9, Washington is beginning to get overwhelmed with the process.
“It’s a lot to deal with between school, playing baseball and people calling me,” Washington said.
One person he doesn’t mind spending time on the phone with is Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. The two have gotten very close over the past year. While O’Sullivan crosses his fingers that Washington will make it to campus, the Buchholz star can see himself playing for the Gators head coach.
“It’s a real good relationship,” Washington said. “I try to talk to him every day, and we text a lot too. He’s a big reason I committed to Florida. It would be really easy to go there and play for him.”
A question around Washington is the position he will play at the next level. Some people believe he will end up as a middle infielder, while others believe his future is at a position in the outfield.
“I want to play shortstop, but center field is fine,” Washington said. “It really doesn’t matter to me.”
Washington moved to Gainesville when he was in eighth grade. Once his family made the move, he knew there wasn’t much of a decision to be made about his favorite college.
“I had to,” Washington said. “The football team won a national championship the first year I was there. I didn’t have a choice but to be a Gator fan!”
After a few trips to the Florida campus to see the facilities, Washington was convinced that Florida was for him.
“They’ve got an indoor batting cage and brand new facilities,” Washington said. “The coaching staff is real good. They’ve got coaches who were Major League scouts, so they can help me. I’ve already worked with them during camps and they’re real good.”
He hasn’t been told anything about which round he should expect to be drafted in next month, but it isn’t a sure thing he will sign professionally. There are criteria in place to make the decision.
“It’s going to be a family decision,” Washington said. “It’s pretty much up to the teams. I can’t control the way they feel about me.”
Washington has even decided on a major if he ends up at Florida. In fact, he knows what his future holds outside of baseball.
“I want to major in communications,” Washington said. “I’d like a job at ESPN. When I retire from the game, that’s where I want to work.”