HARROGATE, Tenn. — Cumberland Gap’s Nathan Hatmaker has signed to continue his baseball career at the University of Virginia at Wise.
“It feels great. I love playing and I want to be the best player I can be, but what means the most is that I’ll get a degree that says University of Virginia. I’m real happy about that,” said Hatmaker, who plans to study physical therapy.
Hatmaker was a two-sport standout for the Panthers in basketball and baseball. On the diamond he’s played a strong center field the past two seasons and led the team with a .384 batting average. For the Cavaliers he’ll concentrate on being a pitcher.
The big lefty worked in the 82-83 mile per hour range as a senior and was able to touch 85 when he had to.
“He was probably our best hitter and he was definitely our best pitcher. Nobody hit him hard and that’s what’s going to translate,” said Cumberland Gap baseball coach Nick Huckaby. “Projectability is huge at that level and they’re looking at where he’s going to be in a year or two years. Nate’s movement on his fastball, his height (almost 6-3) and being left-handed are things you can’t teach.”
UVa.-Wise went 10-27 this past season, their 17th under head coach Hank Banner. They competed in the NAIA’s Mid-South Conference but will be moving to the NCAA Division II Mountain East next year.
Huckaby said Nathan certainly has the make-up to succeed at that level.
“The two years I’ve had him he has been a leader. He works hard and that’s the biggest thing. At the college level, if you’re not willing to work hard you’re not going to make it,” he said. “His work ethic will transition nicely to the college level.”
Hatmaker had a few other offers for baseball, but said he chose the Cavaliers for academic reasons as well as the chance to work with pitching coach Doug Bates.
“I like their pitching coach. He threw for a few years in the pros and he knows what it takes to be the best you can be,” he said.
Hatmaker was joined by several family members and coaches at his signing ceremony on Thursday afternoon. He said their support has got him to where he is today.
“I’d like to thank my coaches and God and everybody for always being there for me and helping me through every step of my four years in high school,” he said.