Mired in a vicious slump, Jonathan Aragon stuck with his swing.
Eventually, a breakout game jump-started his year at the plate.
The unwavering defense, though, was the key reason why Aragon, Manatee's senior catcher, is the Herald All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.
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"I think by far, he's the best catcher in the state," Manatee head coach Rob Viera said. "Riverview's guy (Justin Cohen) was pretty good, but arm-wise, Aragon is one of the top arms in the state. He learned how to use it. As the year went on, he kept working and working on, 'How do I get faster?' ... I don't think there was anybody that had better pop time than him."
That quick release was a key in taking away the running game for opposing teams. In
fact, only eight runners attempted to steal bases with Aragon behind the dish. Six of those attempts were unsuccessful.
"My knowledge behind the plate just ... helps the team throughout the whole season with the running game and everything on the base paths," said Aragon, who will play junior college baseball at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga., next season.
Because of Aragon's defensive knack and the way he handled the pitching staff, Viera felt comfortable allowing him to call games from the plate late in the year against district foes.
That was partly because those clubs were decoding Manatee's dugout signals from the familiarity that comes with playing teams year-in and year-out.
But the main reason Aragon was allowed such an important task was because of how good he was at reading the game.
"He knew our pitchers well enough that we didn't really need to call pitches," Viera said. "He knew we liked to throw fastballs as a coaching staff. And he knew when to throw fastballs and when to throw off-speed. He learned the game. He really did."
Offensively, though, Aragon struggled out of the gate.
He began the season with a .174 batting average through the first nine games. He had just four hits in that span.
Aragon wasn't deterred, staying positive that a change in his timing and hands would lead to in improvement im his swing. It did starting about a month into the season against Port Charlotte, when he went 4-for-4.
That started a little streak, where Aragon collected hits in nine of 10 games.
Then Aragon lifted Manatee past St. Petersburg to reach the Class 8A-District 8 championship on the strength of a triple and his first career high school home run.
"I saw a first-pitch change-up and hit a nice ball out," said Aragon, who finished the season with a .316 batting average after the slow start.
The slump characterized the early part of Aragon's season, but it didn't define how he played the game. He stayed the course and let his defensive prowess shine.
"He just matured a lot in a year," Viera said.