Originally posted by the Liberty Tribune. Written by Chris Geinosky. Photo by Jeffrey Billings.
Nathan Winfrey has never been one to say much on the baseball diamond. He has simply let his game do all the talking since he appeared on the scene as a rare starting player his freshman year.
He has simply let his game do all the talking since he appeared on the scene as a rare starting player his freshman year. And during the course of the past three years, one message has been clearly delivered: Winfrey has been one of the most talented baseball players to ever walk the halls of Liberty High School.
A two-time all-state award-winning shortstop, Winfrey’s name can be found sprinkled throughout the team record book of one of the Blue Jays’ most tradition-rich programs. In fact, he already owns nine school records — and still has his final prep season in front of him.
“His quiet nature is a product of him being a varsity player as a freshman,” Liberty baseball coach Kirk Bragg said. “He was never required to say a lot, just do, so he’s always had that just-do mentality.”
However, as a savvy veteran set to begin his fourth season of varsity baseball, Winfrey realizes he needs to do more than lead by example. He needs to expand his role and be more of a vocal leader.
“For three years, I’ve just played and listened to everyone else,” Winfrey said. “Now as a senior, I know I need to do a little more talking.”
His teammates would be wise to listen. Based on all the numbers, Winfrey knows a thing or two.
He’s coming off one of the greatest individual seasons in Liberty baseball history. As a junior last year, Winfrey rapped out a single-season record 50 hits, highlighted by another
record, 15 doubles, and finished with an eye-popping .485 batting average — fourth-best in team history.
For his three-year career, Winfrey has registered 123 hits — 10 more than the next closest (113 by Brandon Hall). Some of the other career marks he already owns include: doubles (29), triples (12), RBIs (88) and runs scored (98). His career batting average of .444 currently ranks fourth all-time.
“I try to avoid thinking about that stuff,” Winfrey said. “I just try to do what I do — hit the ball. I try not to think about all the numbers. I just want to do what I can do to help us win games.”
Honestly, that’s all Winfrey has left to do as he closes out his high school playing days. He’s already signed a National Letter of Intent to play college baseball at Wichita State, and depending on how the next few months turn out, some believe he could be the next Liberty player to be selected in the Major League Baseball draft when that rolls around in June.
But in the meantime, Winfrey wants to lead the Blue Jays to another winning season. In the past three seasons, Liberty has a compiled a glossy 73-18 record with Winfrey on the lineup card.
“Nathan is the best player as an athlete I’ve ever coached,” said Bragg, who’s in his 13th year with the Blue Jays and 19th season of high school baseball overall. “The special thing about Nathan is that he has always continued to push himself to be a better baseball player. He’s never been satisfied, and we’re talking about a guy who’s always been pretty darn good. And he’s the type of guy that makes his teammates better because when he steps on the field, everyone else wants to play well because they know he will.
“… My only concern is that the book is out on Nathan Winfrey. You’re not reading just a short story. He has history beyond most guys that have ever played high school baseball, especially at (the Class 4) level. He’s going to be challenged, and I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do this season.”