The most special compliment a coach can receive from another coach is about one of his players.
Judging from the good things his opponents have said about Landen Colson, Chad Cope has a good idea where the Watson Chapel graduate ranks among high school catchers in Arkansas.
Asked if Colson’s the best, Cope answered: “One of them, and that’s coming from other coaches in the state I’ve talked to.”
Colson has been a coach’s dream at that position with his offensive and defensive ability. He batted .526 this season, highest in Southeast Arkansas, recorded a .989 fielding percentage and threw out 9 of 10 baserunners during the Wildcats’ run to the 5A-South Conference championship and 5A state semifinals.
“Other coaches have come up to me and said, ‘Your catcher is something special. ‘We can’t run on him. We can’t do anything on him,” said Cope, the Southeast Arkansas Coach of the Year.
Colson’s all-around play made him an easy choice for a spot in today’s Arkansas High School Coaches Association’s All-Star doubleheader at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. First pitch at Bear Stadium is at 5 p.m.
It’s also another chance for Colson to end a highly successful prep career on a high note.
“Since we have come up short (of a state championship) every year since I’ve been here, I definitely feel like this game is definitely going to be the biggest game that I’ve played in,” Colson said. “I know a ton of guys who will be on opposite teams. They’ve been on my prospect team, and they’re really, really good pitchers.”
The catcher has been a key cog in the Wildcats’ winning or sharing the conference title each season he’s played. Watson Chapel last went to the state title game his sophomore year.
Individually, Colson has set a high bar in the program with his outstanding average. Cope has never had a .500 or better hitter in his five seasons leading Watson Chapel, and he marvels at how Colson’s stayed consistent at the plate even after the change in bats from aluminum to BBCOR (Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution).
“That’s something special,” Cope said.
Colson credits his extensive work on his swing for his success, which included 23 RBIs and 10 doubles in 2014.
“Basically just getting out in the cages, hitting out on my own time, hitting at the school, making sure I work out when I need to, on field and off field and all that good stuff,” he said.
Cope added Colson takes each at-bat personally, especially if he doesn’t hit the ball hard. Colson did not homer this season, but Cope said he hit the wall eight to 10 times.
“I think, finally this year, maturity was the biggest thing he realized,” the coach said. “This is a game of failure. You have to learn to deal with it. The average person in the major leagues, if you hit .300, you’re successful. He finally realized, if he pops up the first time, you still have two or three at-bats.”
Arkansas Tech, which recently won the Great American Conference regular-season title and hosted the Division II Central Regional, took note of Colson’s play and landed him as an early signee. Cope, a former Southern Arkansas player, thinks Colson is a great fit for the Russellville program.
“Landen’s bought into what we do,” Cope said. “We start the second day of school around here practicing. He’s bought in to the weights from the middle of October ‘till after spring break. This is every day he’s bought into it. He’s going to do well at Arkansas Tech.”