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Vander Kooi finishes baseball career as state’s top player

Skyline's Boyd Vander Kooi was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for Arizona after a dominating senior year. (Courtesy of Arizona Diamond Report)

Boyd Vander Kooi has earned a scholarship, racked up a handful of player of the year awards in recent weeks and will be selected in the MLB first-year player draft.

He will go down as one of the most dynamic players in Skyline High School history.

And it almost never happened in a Coyote uniform at all.

“I don’t know how many people know this, but I was going to go to Desert Ridge,” Vander Kooi said. “Then my coach (Pat Herrera) went to Skyline, and I followed him. I wouldn’t change anything. It has been a great four years.”

The Coyotes won three games in 2012-13 before Herrera and Vander Kooi showed up in the Skyline dugout.

The win total bumped to 13 the following year and 20 the next. The next two seasons Skyline shook hands on the winning side 39 times, including 20 this season.

“It was little rough that first year,” said Vander Kooi, who is committed to Arizona State after originally committing to Oregon. “There wasn’t much leadership and they didn’t really know how to win. I was young, and didn’t really know how to lead at that point, but I always played on a winning team.

“It’s a different program now, and that’s one of the things I’ll be most proud of. I tried to help us win as much as possible, and hopefully it rubbed off on the younger players and they can keep it going.”

Herrera said Vander Kooi’s development on the field might have only been outdone by his growth as a leader.

“It’s rare a coach gets to coach a kid for four years,” Herrera said. “He came in as a dorky freshman, who could really hit, to a leader who took responsibility of wins and losses whether he was on the mound or not.”

The senior year was a special one for Vander Kooi as he was named the Gatorade Player of the Year and was selected as the top player in the state by the Arizona baseball coaches association.

There were some great individual seasons this year but it is hard to top what Vander Kooi produced.

He had a career year with a .495 average with 31 runs, 30 RBIs along with 16 extra-base hits including six home runs. On the mound, which brought a plethora of scouts every time out, the right-hander went 6-1 with a 1.36 ERA in 51 1/3 innings. He allowed 33 hits, walked 17 and struck out 68.

“I think he did great offensively because it was an escape for him because the scouts were there to see him pitch,” Herrera said. “He really put it all together and there wasn’t anyone better this year.”

It’s why the 6-foot, 194-pounder is expected to be one of the first Arizona high school players in the MLB draft on June 12.

More than any other draft, the baseball selection process is a crap shoot. He has been told that he could go anywhere in the first 10 rounds, which has translated in recent years for other East Valley ballplayers into surprise early round picks to waiting it out for the second-half of the first 20 rounds.

Either way, Herrera said Vander Kooi, who finished with a .401 career average and 22-7 record with a 2.09 ERA, is ready for whatever comes next.

“It can happen any time,” he said of the draft. “I’ve seen it with (Jake) Barrett and (Riley) Unroe at Desert Ridge. One scout sees a player one way and the other doesn’t see the same things. I don’t think it hurts anyone to go to school, but if they go high and the money is right then you have to consider going pro. Boyd will flourish wherever he ends up.”

Vander Kooi, who said he’s working with Mets hitting coach Kevin Long for his offensive surge, has heard from several teams but has no idea as to where he might end up.

And he isn’t all that concerned at this point.

“It’s a win-win for me,” he said. “Either way, I keep playing baseball.”

If he ends up enrolling at Arizona State and playing for the Sun Devils, he is part of an impressive recruiting class for coach Tracy Smith.

“I’ve played with a lot of the guys in club ball,” he said. “I’ve seen the way we played together and we can bring a good winning culture.”

– Jason P. Skoda is a freelance writer for MyNewsMesa.com.

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