MAHOMET — Jon Latham only had 12 plate appearances last season. Latham was forced to sit behind senior catcher Lukas Graham. Latham watched as Graham hit a respectable .308 and drove in 15 runs for Mahomet-Seymour last season.
Graham had a great on-base percentage and was a good defender behind the dish, so it made sense why M-S coach Nic DiFilippo kept Latham on the bench.
“It was tough, but sometimes, you just have to deal with it,” Latham said. “There wasn’t a whole lot I could do. I just knew that Graham was a good catcher, and he’s the senior so, I just had to wait my turn.”
Latham was stuck in no man’s land. But instead of pouting and quitting, Latham went to work. Three times a week, he was in the gym trying to improve his arm strength and get stronger. Throughout the summer, Latham balled out with the Warbird Senators, a Bloomington-based travel club.
“I kept trying to get better,” Latham said. “I wasn’t focusing on what Graham was doing, but I wanted to focus on what I had to do. My main focus has been to work hard and get stronger and get better.”
For three years, Latham never got a chance to truly savor what it felt like to be M-S’ starting varsity catcher. That’s about to change. With Graham moving on to bigger and better things, it’s Latham’s turn to get behind the plate and showcase all his hard work.
“I’m just thankful to get out there and play and finally get out there and show everyone I can do,” Latham said.
Latham’s doesn’t have to tell you how talented he is. The soft-spoken senior already committed to Danville Area Community College for baseball. Latham will be a heady catcher who embraces the mental aspect of the game.
“The most important thing for me is to call a game and manage your pitcher on the mound,” Lath-
am said. “It’s not a thing that a lot of people can do. There’s a lot of thinking involved with trying to figure out what the hitter is trying to do and counter it with a pitch that your pitcher can try to execute.”
The Bulldogs’ pitching staff will consist of seniors Dawson Finch, Kyle Kinney and Ben Greenberger. Juniors Kobe Essien and Rick Bohlen will also see time on the mound. Kinney and Latham have established a solid connection throughout the years, and that battery will get right to work for the Bulldogs.
Essien just throws pure heat. The junior can light up the gun to the tune of 87 or 88 miles per hour. It’ll be up to Latham to control the young gunslinger.
“He has his moments when he gets a little wild, and it’s pretty challenging, but when he can get it in the zone, he’s really fun to catch,” Latham said. “That velocity, you don’t get to see that a lot at this age. It’s something different.”
But Latham won’t just be a difference-maker behind the plate. Remember those 12 at-bats last season? Well, he turned those into four singles. Latham will work deep into counts, and when the pitcher makes a mistake, he’ll be ready to pounce.
After losing Graham, Brooks Coetzee, Austin Biehl and multiple other contributors from last year’s squad, DiFilippo is counting on Latham and nine other seniors to step up. After years of riding the pine, Latham is ready and raring to go.
“I think it’s going to be really exciting to see my name in the lineup and get out there,” Latham said. “I expect a lot out of myself. We have the potential to be really good and go far in the postseason if we can stay clean in the field and put some good swings together. I think we’ll be great.”