Jarvis' numbers demand attention

Burlington Central senior catcher Austin Jarvis isn't sure what it'll take for more Division I baseball programs to give him a look.

Will it be the increased media coverage over the past few weeks? Will it be Burlington Central making a deep run in the playoffs? Will it be him moving up the IHSA record boards?

Jarvis is hopeful that it will all help him, but he realizes it's out of his hands at this point. With a .570 batting average, 16 doubles, seven triples, 12 home runs, 65 RBIs, 51 runs and a pop time of 1.9 to 1.95 seconds from behind the plate as a catcher, Jarvis has done everything he can this season to prove he's capable of playing Division I baseball.

"I think I can play somewhere," Jarvis said.

Burlington Central coach Kyle Nelson, a former Division I player, doesn't just think that; he knows it.

"Yes, definitely," Nelson said. "I played at Valparaiso in the early 2000s. Definitely, he's as good as a Division I catcher. Even if he did struggle offensively, which I don't think he would, he'd be a good catcher."

Part of where Jarvis' problem lies is in his height. He's 5-8, and there just are not that many schools recruiting catchers at that size.

"You don't see it very often, which I understand," Jarvis said. "I feel if I can put up these numbers, I can do it at any level. I can make it."

Prep Baseball Report publisher Sean Duncan, one of the Chicago-area's leading high school baseball experts, doesn't buy that Jarvis' lack of recruitment has been due to his size. Duncan knows of smaller catchers playing Division I baseball. He thought it had more to do with Jarvis simply flying under the radar.

"He's got legitimate power in his bat," Duncan said. "He's got a strong arm. Especially with the shortage of catchers in the state, frankly, I'm pretty surprised no one has popped him yet. Certainly, he's a kid who is worth taking a flyer on.

"It happens every year. Sometimes players don't get recruited for one reason or another."

Jarvis did arrive late to the scene. While he batted over .400 and hit six home runs in each of his past two seasons and was considered to have an above-average bat, no one expected him to put up the astronomical numbers he has this year.

Jarvis credits his success to getting in the batting cage on a constant basis in the offseason and also learning to be more disciplined at the plate.

"He definitely made a lot of improvements over this offseason, and it's definitely showing," Nelson said. "I think his mental approach is a lot different. He takes a lot better at-bats. I think he realizes what he wants to do in different pitch counts. He's also gotten stronger."

When practice began in the winter, Nelson had an idea that Jarvis was primed for a terrific season, but it wasn't until that first week of games that he knew it. In the first game, Jarvis homered. In the second, he homered. By the end of the week, he had three home runs and 15 RBIs.

Jarvis' lack of recruitment has frustrated him at times, but he's continued to push ahead. Right now, he's focused on Burlington Central extending its 22-game winning streak and winning its first state baseball championship.

"He's done a really good job of going hard every day and letting that stuff take care of itself," Nelson said. "I give him credit. I'm not sure how I would have handled myself in that situation. I think he's done a fantastic job of keeping things in perspective."

A strong option for Jarvis if a Division I school doesn't come knocking is to play at Elgin Community College, prove himself there and then land at a Division I program.

"There are obviously a lot of good community colleges in the area," Nelson said. "I don't think that's a bad avenue for any player to take."
Jarvis does have time to decide, too.

"No doubt, there's a misconception if it's mid-May it's too late, and it's not too late," Duncan said. "There's a lot of stuff that gets done in late May, June. Lake Zurich's Tanner Witt missed his junior year and ended up signing a very sizeable scholarship to Kansas State in June, and they're a top-25 team."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at preps@espnchicago.com.