Southwestern sophomore third baseman Dillon Coates made it two in a row for the Spartan baseball team, as he was named the recipient of the 2013 Male Athlete of the Year Award.
Coates follows in the footsteps of former shortstop Nate Clark, who won the award last year.
“It’s a good honor,” Coates said. “I wasn’t really expecting to get the award, but it’s a big deal to me. It shows me that I’ve done what I wanted to do here at SWCC and done whatever I can.”
And for Southwestern head baseball coach Brian “Bull” Smith, there’s no denying what Coates has provided his baseball team the past two years.
“He is a true middle of the order hitter,” Smith said. “John Oler, my assistant, and I were talking about this the other day. Dillon Coates is probably the most complete power guy, middle of the order type guy, of anybody we’ve seen this year. He’s just that good.”
Coates is currently hitting at a .357 clip for the Spartans, with an on-base percentace of .423.
The 6-0, 195-pound sophomore from Indianola, who played his high school baseball at Martensdale-St. Marys has five doubles, five triples and two home runs this season, and has driven in 18 runs. He’s also a perfect 3-for-3 on stolen base attempts.
He has been the unquestioned leader of the Spartan offense this season, leading the team in virtually every offensive category. He ranks second in the ICCAC in triples and fourth in slugging percentage.
“If the kid could make the switch over to second base, I think he’s got a good chance to possibly go play pro ball,” Smith said. “He’d be a heck of an offensive second baseman. He runs OK and he’s a solid defensive player.”
And even with the success Coates has had in a Spartan uniform, he still feels like there’s more potential to tap into.
“I feel like I’ve had two decent years,” he said about his time at Southwestern, which isn’t quite over yet as the Spartans finish up regular season play and start Region XI action Thursday. “Not the best years of my life, but I feel like I’ve done my job here and done what I wanted to do to get myself as good as I possibly could.”
Smith said Coates has earned the respect of the other coaches in Region XI, shown by him being named second-team all-region as a freshman.
“Coach Rich Grife (Marshalltown), he said he has absolutely no idea how to pitch the kid,” Smith said. “Every time he tries something, he gets a hit. That’s just Dillon. Everything you try to work him, he’s going to get a bat on it. Even his outs are hard.”
For Coates, being named second-team all-region last year as a freshman has been the most memorable moment of his collegiate baseball career, thus far.
“He’s an absolutely great college player,” Smith said. “He’s my favorite guy I’ve ever coached. I’ve never met anybody that’s had anything bad to say about him at all. He’s just a great guy to be around, an absolutely great teammate.”
Coates’s success on the baseball field has garnered looks from several colleges wanting him to join their team for next year.
But Coates is uncertain what path he wants to take after his playing days at Southwestern are over.
“I haven’t decided what I’m going to do,” he said. “I’ve had many calls and I need to get back to some other coaches. I’m not really sure yet.”
Whatever decision he makes, Coates said he would like to continue playing baseball.
It’s something he’s known his entire life, first playing baseball at the age of 3 in Indianola in a league that used Wiffle Ball bats and balls, hitting off a tee.
“He’s talked about going to some pro tryouts, maybe some independent stuff to see if he gets picked up there,” Smith said. “I know he’s got plenty of opportunities, it’s just what he wants to do. He’s got a lot of people wanting him to come play baseball next year.”
Among the schools that have taken an interest in Coates are Augustana College (S.D.), Briar Cliff and Union University.
No matter what decision Coates makes, one thing is certain for his future — he’ll find time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
“I’m a big hunter and big outdoorsman,” he said. “I feel like it’s peaceful out there, there’s nothing around. Just takes my mind completely off of things. I just go out in the tree, sit in the tree and don’t even think about baseball. It’s just me and the timber.”