For a while, Burke Watkins thought he might have the next Tiger Woods on his hands.
Instead, he ended up with perhaps the next Alex Rodriguez.
When Pleasant Grove senior shortstop Brock Watkins was 3 years old, Burke gave his son a cut-down set of clubs and laid out a golf mat in the backyard of their home.
“I’d set down a five-gallon bucket of golf balls and Brock would swing for hours out there,” Burke Watkins said. “He’d get blisters on his hands. I guess that’s where he started his swinging sport development.”
The younger Watkins eventually gave up the clubs and golf balls for a glove and a bat. Combined with that focused work ethic, he put his time to good use: He’s the 2019 Daily Herald Valley Baseball Player of the Year.
Watkins’ numbers against 6A competition are undeniably the best in the state in 2019. He hit .573 with 39 runs, 41 RBI, 15 doubles, five triples and six home runs, striking out just seven times in 122 plate appearances. Watkins was difficult to keep off the bases, finishing with a slugging percentage of 1.020 and an on-base percentage of .656. As a shortstop, he totaled 83 assists and turned 17 double plays, logging a .931 fielding percentage.
As a four-year starter, Watkins’ career marks just as impressive. He finished as the state record holder in hits in a season (44) and in a career (158) while ending up second in career RBI (127).
Watkins saved his best for last, going 4 for 5 in the 6A state title game, tying up the contest with a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning and scoring the game-winning run in the ninth.
Rain delays and the extra-inning final made it pretty late for celebrations, but Watkins said there was a pizza party at the high school for the team. Afterward, Watkins just hung around with his teammates and friends until about four in the morning because he didn’t want the day to end.
“I asked him if he had any plans, and he said he was going to celebrate with the boys as long as he could stay awake,” Burke Watkins said.
Brock Watkins started competitive baseball at age 8 and by the time he reached his 12th year, both he and his dad realized he was an elite player. When he was 14, Watkins played all over the country during the summer on a travel team and saw his game really take off.
Burke Watkins and Vikings head coach Darrin Henry both played on the first Pleasant Grove team to win a state baseball championship (1987).
“Brock really came on strong this year,” Burke Watkins said. “He really has a strong desire to win. He puts in a lot of hours when no one is looking. I have a net set up in the garage, and he’ll go out there and hit balls almost every day. He always makes time to get his work in.”
Burke is the first base coach for Pleasant Grove, which gave him a unique perspective on his son’s super senior season.
“It was fantastic,” Burke Watkins said. “I was so happy to be a part of it from that aspect. It’s funny but it was more nerve-wracking to sit in the stands as a parent then to be on the field as a coach. It was such a thrill to be out there with him. It can be a tough dynamic, but I think for the most part we made it work. I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.”
Henry has coached his fair share of great players at Pleasant Grove, including his own son Payton, a catcher in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Appreciating Watkins’ great play and leadership comes easily.
“Brock has been a four-year starter here,” Henry said. “He’s one of most unbelievable athletes we’ve ever had on the field. He has a knack for hitting the ball to the right side of the field with power, and you don’t see a lot of guys at this level have the power he has there. He has all five tools and is as important to our team as anyone that has ever been in this program.”
Brock himself is a young man of few words and deflects much of the attention and praise to his teammates.
“This team is so close,” he said. “We do everything together. We’ve got so many guys that will back me up, I don’t think I had anything on my shoulders. We just really knew how to play together.”
Brock signed with BYU and will join the team in August. The Cougars first started talking to him when he was in the eighth grade and made the offer after his fall league as a freshman. Watkins committed his junior year and has big plans.
“I want to work hard to help the team however I can, but my goal is to start as a freshman,” he said. “Then after my sophomore year I want to get drafted and play pro ball.”