The layoff was nearly over and Virginia Military Institute catcher Matt Winn was getting restless.
Three weeks had passed since Winn last strapped on his chest protector.
But the layoff didn’t last long. “Being a senior I couldn’t play summer ball,” Winn said. “I’ve been throwing with my sister Sara who plays club softball at James Madison.”
Winn, a 14th-round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants is now working out at the team’s player development site in Scottsdale, Ariz. Winn was one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award honoring the top Division I collegiate catcher. Garrett Stubbs of USC was named the recipient Thursday night.
This past year has been a culmination of four years for the kid from Richmond who started catching when he was 10 years old. In 2015 Winn started all 50 Keydets games. In 191 plate appearances Winn finished with a .304 batting average and recorded 58 hits (32 singles and 12 doubles). He hit a team high 14 home runs and 39 RBI. Behind the plate, Winn had 319 putouts and 44 assists leading to a .989 fielding percentage. He was a third team All-American and a first team All-Southern Conference honoree.
Winn is VMI baseball’s all-time leader in runners picked off (25), fielding percentage (.989), stolen base percentage against (.611) and throw outs (81).
“Matt has worked extremely hard over the years to put himself in this position to be a draft pick by the Giants,” said VMI head coach Jonathan Hadra. “The privilege to play professional baseball does not just happen to everyone and Matt certainly deserves this and the rest of the postseason accolades he has earned, because of the work and sacrifice he has put in throughout the years. We are so proud of him and excited to follow Matt through this next chapter in his life and career.”
During the draft, Winn, who was restless from not playing, was watching the day 3 coverage. Ten minutes after he shut the TV off, he received a text message from VMI volunteer coach Mike Roberts that read “Congrats.”
“I had no clue that I had been drafted,” Winn said. “It was a huge surprise too. I had been contacted by three teams who had showed interest in me and the Giants weren’t one of them. I’m excited about being a Giant. They are a class organization that’s won three World Series in five years.”
Above: VMI’s Matt Winn was one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award, given annually to the best catcher in college baseball. (Courtesy Chuck Steenburgh)