By Rick Morwick
A.J. Poynter was a solid hitter and fleet-footed base runner for the Center Grove High School baseball team.
But his real value was in the field, where few – if any – players in the state matched his defensive excellence.
To put his standout senior season in perspective, Poynter was, well, perfect at second base in 26 starts for the Class 4A Trojans.
“His defensive ability is one of the best I have ever coached at second base,” Trojans coach Keith Hatfield said. “His ability to make the correct read on the ball and turn the double play is what sets him apart from other second basemen at the high school level.”
A three-year starter, Poynter saved his best for last for the second-ranked Trojans, who finished 23-3 following a first-round sectional upset loss against Johnson County rival Whiteland.
Poynter started all 26 games at second base and committed no errors in 70 fielding attempts. He converted a team-high 51 assists and finished the season with a fielding percentage of 1.000 percent.
Plying his craft with his teammates is what made the season a thrill ride.
“I love getting to turn double plays because everyone likes two outs, and I get to turn it with my shortstop Bryce Eblin, who is committed to Alabama to play SEC baseball,” Poynter said. “I love getting to see my guys on the field every day.
Center Grove baseball is a bit of a family tradition for Poynter, whose father Brandon was a standout player for the Trojans in the early 1990s. He went on to play for Purdue and Butler, and the younger Poynter plans to follow a similar college path.
An honors student, Poynter plans to study finance at Butler University and attempt to play baseball as a walk-on.
“I have played baseball since I was 4 years old, but I first started hitting when I was 2,” Poynter said. “I started when (my dad) would throw to me when I was young, and I played T-ball when I was 4.”
Now, like his dad, he is an accomplished player who left an indelible mark on the Trojans’ program.
Although defense was his primary strength, Poynter also was a productive offensive player. He hit .282 with 20 RBIs, three doubles and a home run for the Trojans, who finished 13-1 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference. He also scored 20 runs and stole three bases.
“A.J. really came on as a leader for us this year,” Hatfield said. “He is a really likeable kid, which made it easier for other players to follow his lead. He was a tireless worker in the offseason and never skipped a day. We are going to miss A.J.”
THE POYNTER FILE
NAME: A.J. Poynter
YEAR: 2019 graduate
POSITION: Second base
EXPERIENCE: Three-year starter
HOBBIES/INTERESTS: Playing golf and shopping for clothes, “because I like to dress clean when I go out.”
FAVORITE MOVIE: The Goonies
FAVORITE TV SHOW: Impractical Jokers
COLLEGE: Plans to study finance at Butler University and attempt to play baseball as a walk-on.
PARENTS: Brandon and Amy Poynter