FORTVILLE – Baseball is like breathing for Hunter Dobbins.
Every time Vernon senior grabs a baseball bat – whether it’s composite, aluminum or wood – everything seems to fall into place.
At least on the surface, that’s how the 6-foot-2 MLB Draft prospect makes it look.
A stroke average of 555 this season for Class 4A Regional Champion Mt. Vernon Marauders – with just 10 strikes on 86 bats – confirms Dobbin’s natural ability, but it is his work ethic that has really perfected his talent.
Those who know the Ball State recruit will testify. Baseball is more than a game for the unanimous 2021 Daily Reporter Baseball Player of the Year chosen by the votes.
“He’s working on hitting as if it’s his job,” said Vernon baseball coach Brad King. “And in the end it will be. All this work and all that focus will pay off. He’s not the type of guy who gets into the cage and just takes a few turns and gets out. Every turn, it’s a purpose. ”
For the past three seasons and four years, the goal has been to get Mount Vernon over the hump, which the 2021 IHSBCA District Player of the Year and All-Hoosier Heritage Conference Committee achieved.
As one of many highly productive seniors on the Marauders list this spring, Dobbins drove his team to its first section title since 2011, a single-season high school record of 26 wins, a first direct HHC title, and also to the end of a 50-year regional championship drought.
Dobbins led the Marauders with 39 RBIs and 10 home runs, while also stacking on 48 hits, 12 doubles, 22 runs, despite being run often, and a triple.
His proudest statistic, however, was the most memorable.
“One round. Three Ks, ”Dobbins said with a smile. “It was probably the funniest thing I’ve done in a while because I hadn’t pitched since I was 12. It felt good to get one more round.”
The hit-free frame came on a relief on May 24 against Centerville during a 9-0 victory. For Dobbins, there were three battles, 16 courses and three strikes.
“I had to beg the coach. AJ Swingle threw that game, and I said to AJ, ‘Hey, man, this may be the last time I get a pitch in my life, ever.’ And he says, ‘OK, okay,’ ‘Dobbins said. “I got into the bullpen, warmed up, and then I came out and they put a (radar) gun behind the plate. I did not let it eat too much. I kind of worked with the basket that day, but I had the burial holes roaring. ”
While one day to remember, Dobbins usually had opposing coaches and pitchers scouting to find holes in the turn or any weakness to expose, but he deliberately used the lost COVID-19 pandemic season to minimize as many as possible.
Dobbins came up through the local baseball leagues on the east side, along with several of his teammates in high school, and began to fix the game more when he joined Indiana Prospects for summer ball and later Indiana Nitro.
The IHSBCA South All-Star from 2021 had the pedigree to succeed from the beginning with his father, Brian, and mother, Shelly Bond, being former athletes.
On the father’s side of the family, however, football was their legacy, especially through the Wheelwright family tree, which has made its impact at the collegiate and NFL levels, including with former New Orleans Saints running back Ernie Wheelwright.
Dobbins played football until high school, and generated hits as a linebacker before committing to being a versatile threat on the baseball field as a catcher, infielder and outfielder.
“I loved football. I played on Team Indiana in eighth grade, and then saw how big the dudes were, and I was like, ‘You know what? “I’m a big guy, but I’m not going to get hurt when I play this because I know I’m going somewhere to play baseball,” said Dobbins.
If anything, Dobbins knew how determined he was to do anything to get a chance.
When he was not playing baseball at school, Dobbins competed in the circuit or trained at Pro X in Westfield while gaining insight from the likes of Zach Huffin, a 13th-round draft pick for the Tampa Bay Rays, and Butler’s Duncan Hewitt, who is also a potential prospectus for MLB draft.
The trio trained together through 2020 when Dobbins incorporated technology into the training regime and on average almost four to five hours a day to hit and throw.
“I have a VR that simulates 90-something and 100 (mph) where I literally put it on and get a foothold, then I go to the cages and turn off a machine that throws 95 mph cutters, so in a game when someone throws a 94-four stitch, it just looks flat and does not move, “said Dobbins. “That was what helped me a lot.”
The results corresponded to an exit speed of 103 km / h, according to Prep Baseball Report Indiana, and a catch speed of 84. His 60-yard time was recorded at 7.03 seconds during February.
“If I had not done so (on Pro X), I do not think I would have had close to the season I had and been on the dashboards as I am,” Dobbins said. “I’m very happy it worked out.”
A preseason All-State selection from PBR Indiana, Dobbins was invited to compete in the College Summer League, which is only an invitation to highly-educated high school seniors and current college players.
He participated in the IHSBCA North-South All-Star game series in Evansville this offseason and was the 2021 Indiana Mr. Baseball candidate. Dobbins was the fourth South All-Star in Vernon history, joining Chad Kleine (1991), Troy Montgomery (2013) and Zach Spears (2015).
“This may be the first time I have set a goal and I have really achieved it,” Dobbins said. “I came into the season and wanted to hit .500 with eight homers, and I hit around .560 with 10, so we hit the target. We made the star game, and I did everything I could. Now, hopefully, my last goal is to be worked out. We’ll see if that’s going to be true or not. ”
Dobbins is not worried about the uncontrollable with several options in front of him.
If he is not drafted, as planned this month, he will have more time to lure MLB scouts while competing in the Mid-American Conference, which has produced several professionals. Most recently Greenfield-Central’s Drey Jameson who was drafted 34th overall in 2019 out of Ball State by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“You have to be calm. People ask me if I’m nervous about the draft, and I say to them: no. Whatever happens, happens. Everything happens for a reason. I just need to keep hitting, working hard every day and continuing to perform, and eventually I get there, ”said Dobbins.
Dobbins knows nothing else.
“When you work really hard and it works, it’s the best feeling in life. Baseball is one of those games where you can work as hard as you want, and by chance one day you will not be good. Or in a week you just do not want to see the ball well, “said Dobbins.
“I love how difficult it is. I love how hard you have to work to be good at it. Baseball is one of those games where if you do not train, it really pays off, and it is actually very difficult to be good unless you put in a lot of work. ”
2021 Daily Reporter All-County Baseball Team
Hunter Dobbins, Mount Vernon
Joel Walton, Mount Vernon
Eli Clotfelter, Mount Vernon
AJ Swingle, Mount Vernon
Eli Bridenthal, Vernon
Landon Clark, Mount Vernon
Jake Stank, Mount Vernon
Grant Shepherd, Greenfield-Central
Conner Sims, Greenfield-Central
Gavin Atwood, Greenfield-Central
Carson Gibson, Greenfield-Central
Brendan Tabor, New Palestine
Maddox Manes, New Palestine
Zayden Stiller, New Palestine
Wyatt Sutton, Eastern Hancock
Player of the year: Hunter Dobbins, Mount Vernon
Coach of the year: Brad King, Mount Vernon
Honest reviews: Greenfield-Central – Parker Stanley, Austin Oden, Kalob Martin, Lance McKee, Joey Roland. Mount Vernon – Gavin Sullivan, Nate Weaver, Payton Bovard, Bryce Miller. Eastern Hancock – Drew White, Cameron Wise, Caden Hancock, Landon Kintner. New Palestine – Carter Stogsdill, Wes Stiller, Eli Bruns, Blaine Nunnally.