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Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Action in the Pleasant Grove versus Lone Peak 6A high school baseball championship game at the UCUU ball park in Orem on Friday, May 24, 2019.

Becoming the best at any sport requires a lot of natural talent, but perhaps even more hard work — a chief aspect found with every classification's MVPs. Their outstanding performances throughout the 2019 season were a culmination of effort and dedication that was cultivated long before putting up big numbers on the field of play.

This year's MVPs as picked by the Deseret News are Pleasant Grove's Payton Norman, Cottonwood's Porter Hodge, Desert Hills' Drew Thorpe, Richfield's Emmitt Hafen and Milford's Bryson Barnes.

Here's a closer look at all five MVPs.


Payton Norman, Pleasant Grove

Payton Norman, Pleasant Grove

Coaches generally know what players will develop into, but for Pleasant Grove coach Darrin Henry, he was perhaps a bit surprised at what Payton Norman ultimately became.

After an inauspicious start to his prep career, Norman finished strong with a .462 batting average, five home runs and 34 RBIs to help lead the Vikings to a state championship.

" He’s just a story of complete and maniacal hard work. "
Pleasant Grove coach Darrin Henry

“He came in during his freshman and sophomore year as a guy who didn’t have all the tools necessary to play varsity baseball,” Henry said. “But he’s just a story of complete and maniacal hard work.”

Norman played in the outfield for the Vikings and made it a habit of coming up big in clutch situations, including throughout the state playoffs where he proved key in helping earn the ultimate team goal.

“He would hit every single day of the year, and brought himself from a pretty average player to a really great player for us,” Henry said. “It’s been awesome to watch and if not for Brock (Watkins), he’d probably be a guy getting a lot of awards.”


Porter Hodge, Cottonwood

Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Action in the Cottonwood versus Timpanogos 5A high school baseball championship at the UCUU ball park in Orem on Friday, May 24, 2019.

Hodge mowed through 5A competition throughout his career and was at his best this past season, posting an 8-0 record from the mound with a 1.00 ERA and 63 strikeouts. Apparently his talents were noticed by a lot of professional scouts, and particularly by the Chicago Cubs, who drafted the 6-foot-4 pitcher in the 13th round.

"He has some great options and opportunities and I really don't know what he's going to do," Cottonwood coach Jason Crawford said at the time Hodge was drafted. "But he's a kid with a lot of upside and he's now been drafted by an organization that is willing to be patient with him, and a real quality organization."

" He's really developed well and has been great for us and a big part of the success we've had. "
Cottonwood coach Jason Crawford

Hodge presents an imposing presence on the mound, which often gained stellar results during the Colts' second straight championship run.

"He has a great fastball and really good control," Crawford said. "He's really developed well and has been great for us and a big part of the success we've had."

From the plate he contributed a couple of home runs and 10 doubles while playing key in most of his team's wins this season.


Drew Thorpe, Desert Hills

David Larson, St. George News / Cedar City News
Desert Hills' Drew Thorpe is the Deseret News 4A MVP.

Drew Thorpe has played a significant role for the Thunder for several years and certainly played a big role this year with his 7-1 record from the mound and 0.54 ERA to go along with an impressive .350 batting average.

"He's played a lot of roles for us, and he's always responded well," said Desert Hills coach Chris Allred. "And certainly whenever he was on the mound you just went in with a lot of confidence that we were going to win the game. We don't lose hardly at all when he's pitching for us."

" He's built himself into a college player and he'll now get that chance. "
Desert Hills coach Chris Allred

According to Allred, Thorpe was at his best during Desert Hills' state championship run this past season, at least from the plate.

"He really came up with some big and timely hits for us," Allred said. "Every time he was up it seemed like he'd get on base and overall he's just been a really good player and he's done a lot for our program."

Like other MVPs, Thorpe has put the necessary work in and then some.

"I remember seeing him play for the first time when he was just 12 years old and you could see the extra time he put in even back then," Allred said. "He's put a lot of time in the weight room to get physically strong. He's built himself into a college player and he'll now get that chance."

Thorpe will play collegiately for Cal Poly as Allred works to replace him.


Emmitt Hafen, Richfield

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Richfield's Emmitt Hafen scoops up a grounder and makes the throw to first for an out as the Wildcats and Summit Academy play in the 3A Baseball championship baseball game at Kearns High School on Gates Field.

There are numbers and then there are Emmitt Hafen-type numbers put up during his outstanding senior campaign. The Richfield standout led the Wildcats to a state title this past year with his .578 batting average, seven home runs and 50 RBIs.

Oh yeah, he also pitches and pitches quite well, to the tune of a 1.47 ERA and 7-1 record.

"If I could find players like Emmitt every year then there'd be a likely chance we could win state every year," said Richfield coach Faron Reed. "He's just worked hard and he's a tremendous athlete who puts in a ton of time on his own. He's very driven. Some are born with it and he is."

" If I could find players like Emmitt every year then there'd be a likely chance we could win state every year. "
Richfield coach Faron Reed

He's also a great team leader, turns out.

"He's always worked to uplift his team to match his work and intensity and that was a big thing for us," Reed said.

Hafen excelled at every sport he played for Richfield, according to Reed, and was able to reach top levels at all of them with the dedication he put in.

"You don't get kids like Emmitt maybe ever," Reed said. "He can flat-out hit and he's someone who is going to be impossible to replace with everything he brought to our team. It's been an honor to coach him and we're certainly going to miss him."


Bryson Barnes, Milford

Kaylee Beebe
Milford's Bryson Barnes is the Deseret News 1A MVP.

Like other MVPs Bryson Barnes starred for Milford from both the plate and the mound in leading the Tigers to a state championship. His numbers included a .420 batting average and 34 RBIs to go along with a 6-1 record as a pitcher.

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"He's a great leader on our team and for our school," said Milford coach Tyler McMullin. "He's just a natural leader and it really helped us this year and he's obviously a tremendous baseball player."

" He's a great leader on our team and for our school. "
Milford coach Tyler McMullin

The best leaders lead by example, and Barnes certainly set forth a good role model for his teammates.

"He played a lot of sports and worked very hard at all of them," McMullin said. "It paid off and he's the type of kid you want for all the other kids to follow after and he's helped all of them strive to be better throughout their careers. He's exactly the type of player you want on your program every year and we've benefited a lot with him playing for us. That's for sure."