It wasn't just the fact that in his last performance on the mound he threw a one-hitter against the team's bitter rivals in the state semifinals. It wasn't the fact that he was a four-year starter that saw a team go from doormats to champions. And it isn't only the fact that he amassed nearly 30 wins over his high school career. No, it was a combination of everything packaged all into one that made Judge Memorial's Joe Pond the inaugural Deseret News Mr. Baseball.
"It is a great honor to be picked," said Pond. "There were a lot of really great baseball players out there this season, so for me to be selected is really humbling. I am very grateful."
Besides being absolutely dominant on the mound Pond was 10-0, struck out 78 in only 49 innings of work, a number that surely would have been higher if Judge had not invoked the 10-run mercy rule on so many of its opponents, and surrendered just five earned runs all season something that stood out about the University of Utah signee was his ability to keep things in perspective.
"I am a pretty competitive person," he said. "And I can get pretty fired up on the field, but my mom always was a calming influence on me. She helped me remember it is just a game and that there is more to life than just baseball."
Pond may know that concept, but from the time his senior season as the quarterback for the runner-up Bulldogs was over, he ate, slept and lived baseball.
"Almost our whole team would be in the weight room at 5:30 in the morning working out," Pond said. "I don't know a lot of teams that would show that kind of commitment. We worked our tails off to get what we wanted."
What the Bulldogs wanted was to finish off the season with a state championship. A third-place and runner-up finish in 2007 and 2006 left Pond with a bitter taste in his mouth. He wanted to cap his stellar career with a title. He did just that.
"This season was surreal," he said. "To finally win that state championship was everything I wanted it to be. We went 26-1 and had one of the best seasons ever, and to go out like that, with all of my friends there with me, I just couldn't have asked for anything more."
His coach, Jeff Myaer, who took over the program in Pond's freshman year, felt the same about his star player.
"Everything we ever needed from Joe, he gave us," said Myaer. "He pitched his guts out his sophomore year in the tournament. Then, he did the same for us last season. So to see him go out on top is perfect. He is an excellent choice for Mr. Baseball. I am positive that there was not a better candidate out there."
If needing any more validation were necessary, going against the best 34 players in the state regardless of classification or class year at the first annual Marshall Gates Foundation/Deseret News All-star Game, Pond threw three scoreless innings against that potent lineup. His mastery on the mound and a clutch RBI single earned him MVP honors of that game to go along with his MVP status from the 3A tournament.
"It has been almost overwhelming all the stuff that happened in the last month," added Pond. "But these are the things that I will remember for the rest of my life. I will always have this time to look back on it and say, 'That was a great time in my life.'"From his smarts, to his talent, to his pleasant demeanor and the overall great person that is Joe Pond, the bar has been set pretty high for all the Mr. Baseball award winners to live up to.
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