Former Central Standout Shines at Mizzou

Published 05/19 2013 09:47PM

Updated 05/19 2013 11:02PM

(COLUMBIA, Mo.) The Missouri Tigers first baseball season in the SEC started off slow, but the team made a late push to make the conference tournament. Former Central Indian Keaton Steele has been a big part of that.

Steele went 4-9 with a home run and two saves in a three game series with Kentucky, and he's taken a step closer to making a dream become a reality.

While most teenagers are just trying to get through high school, Steele was choosing a career path.

"He called me one evening after we took a pretty hard loss, and he said 'Everyone at school asks me what I want to do with my life. I just keep telling them, I want to be a baseball player,'" Steele's baseball coach at Central, Justin McCarthy recalled.

Most kids grow up hoping to be a professional athlete, but unlike most, Steele's doing something about it, even when Division I programs didn't come calling.

"I had one offer coming out of high school, and I was disappointed about it," Steele said. "I felt like I had something to prove coming from that big of a school and playing as well as I thought I did in high school ball to get a shot at a level like this. But unfortunately it didn't work out that way, but you just have to keep pushing."

The Central High School product burst onto the national scene in the 2012 NJCAA World Series with Iowa Western.

While IWCC won the national championship, he earned tournament MVP going 2-2 with a home run at the plate and also picked up a save in the championship game.

He carried that success over to the University of Missouri.

"Honestly I think about that everyday when I come out here. I did that at the biggest stage in front of 10,000 people. There's no way I can come out here and fail in front of 2,000."

But it almost wasn't meant to be.

In his freshman season at Iowa Western, he sustained a slight tear in his labrum, and ruptured a rotator cuff

Once again, he pushed past the adversity.

Mizzou head coach Tim Jamieson says it's that mental toughness that sets him apart.

"It's that makeup, it's the toughness," Jamieson said. "It's all the things that allow him to excel in those types of situations. You can't coach that. That's either there or it's not. He's got those intangibles and that's what makes him the player that he is."

Steele has become a dual-threat for Missouri.

He is the only baseball player in a major D-I conference to lead his team in wins as a pitcher with five and home runs as a batter with five.

The St. Joseph native is also the first player in 17 years to win SEC Player of the Week and Pitcher of the Week in the same season.

"You're a hitter and you're a pitcher," Steele said. "When I'm hitting I know exactly what the pitcher is thinking, and when I'm pitching I know exactly what the hitter is going to think, so I think that kind of helps me a little bit more."

"He's been one of our better hitters," Jamieson said. "It's been hard not to involve him in more than just pitching."

But it was his ability on the mound that made Tampa Bay select him in the 29th round of the Major League Baseball draft in 2012.

Steele opted to stay in school, but when it is his time, Jamieson says he'll be up to the challenge.

"He has that make up that (Aaron) Crow had, that (Max) Scherzer had, that (Kyle) Gibson had, and all those guys that are pitching in the big leagues. It's just his belief in himself and his desire to have the ball in tough situations."

For now, the player dubbed "Man of Steele" by his college teammates is just looking to help the Tigers advance through the SEC Tournament, but when his time rolls around, Steele will be ready to make his childhood dream come true.

"It's the only thing I've wanted to do, and honestly I think it's probably the only thing I'm good at, so hopefully I can keep it going."

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