Trader Flora knew he had some work to do when, as a sophomore, he took over the catching duties for the Topsail High School baseball team and was aiming to continue his athletic career at the next level.
Now in his senior year, the team’s quiet leader has not only filled out physically, but he’s put the time in from early morning workouts to now serving as a key piece on this year’s team, which has garnered national attention.
“Trader is a classic example of what perseverance, a good work ethic and determination can get you,” said Topsail baseball coach Granville Gehris. “He had all the tools; it was just a matter of him continuing to work. He’s worked extremely hard to put himself in this situation and it’s a testament to his character, his upbringing and he’s a fantastic young man. He’s our catalyst.”
Flora signed his Letter of Intent on Thursday to Appalachian State University, becoming the fifth senior ballplayer from Hampstead to commit this year.
“Having this opportunity is still at bit surreal to me,” said Flora. “There was definitely a point where I wasn’t sure if it would ever happen. I want to thank the great coaching staff at Topsail for helping me get to this point and my teammates for pushing me to strive to be the best I can be and most of all, never giving up on me.”
The catcher on any ball team is often overlooked by many, but any coach or player will tell you that the catcher is one of the most important positions on the field. Not only do they catch the ball thrown by the pitcher, they have visual of the whole field during game play. He communicates with his fielders on nearly every pitch, while helping the game move along to set a rhythm for his teammates.
The catcher controls the game and works as the captain on the field. He calls pitches and works with the pitcher to help them pitch smart to each batter. Catchers have to block bad pitches and be able to make throws to the bases to keep runners from stealing.
Think about it this way: A bad infielder can only hurt your team when the ball is hit to him or there is a play at his base, but a bad catcher can hurt your team on any pitch when there’s a runner on base. Catcher is one of those positions where if he’s good, you don’t notice him, but if he’s bad it can really hurt your team.
“Trader worked his way up to be an excellent high school catcher,” said Gehris. “You just have to keep plugging away and working and Trader is a classic example of that as a Division I commit. Pitchers are confident to throw in the dirt. He’s done a fantastic job receiving and blocking. He makes us better. We really can’t replace the guys graduating this year. We just hope we can rebuild and go from there.”
Flora has taken his job seriously over the past few years and while the senior standout will push the attention to his other teammates, he has been a big part of the success at Topsail over the past few seasons.
“Not only have my coaches and teammates played a big role in my success, but my parents, without their guidance and support, I would not be where I am today,” said Flora. “I realize I can’t put into words how much their presence has meant to me or how grateful I am.”