Carroll County Times

Baseball Player of the Year: Intelligence, work ethic, fastball helped Houck become the best

Westminster senior Trevor Houck dominated this past spring on the mound going 7-2 with a 1.17 ERA. He also won the hitting Triple Crown and was named the Times' Baseball Player of the Year.

Trevor Houck has always excelled in the classroom.

The recent Westminster graduate finished 10th in his class with a grade-point average of 4.56, never earning anything less than an A. He also successfully completed the engineering program at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, a career path that he plans to continue in college.

But Houck didn't just ace his way through high school classwork, he was also the ace of the Owls' pitching staff and their top hitter as his smarts carried over to the baseball diamond.

The Times' Baseball Player of the Year, the Westminster senior went 7-2 with a county-best 1.17 ERA and 50 strikeouts while winning the Triple Crown by leading or tying for the county lead in batting average (.541), home runs (three) and RBIs (31).

"Trevor's very intelligent," Owls coach Mark Winebrunner said. "He knows what pitches to use and when. A lot of kids will try to, if they get ahead in the count they want to, use their off-speed pitch. Trevor's smart enough to know if kids aren't catching up to the fastball, keep throwing it."

Houck said pitching wasn't always his strength, although by the time he got to high school it was.

He said it really started to improve when he began taking lessons from Andy Bair, a one-time metro player of the year and minor league hurler who has taught at Larry Sheets' Players in Westminster for more than a decade.

"After a little less than a year, I think I picked up on a lot of things," Houck said. "I started throwing the ball well, the same motion every time."

Bair said he knew right away that Houck had the stuff to be successful.

"From the get-go as a young middle schooler, he had life to his fastball. He just had that little extra," Bair said. "He kept progressing. He's really not that big of a guy, but he throws that big-guy fastball."

Bair met with Houck once a week during Houck's freshman and sophomore year. The next two seasons, they met less sporadically, usually when Houck needed to work on smaller things.

Bair liked Houck's fastball, but that was only one reason he says he knew Houck was going to be good.

"What separated him, I would say, at that age was he just had a work ethic that you can't teach," Bair said. "He would work on things from lesson-to-lesson, you could tell he wasn't just taking one lesson and putting it in his back pocket. He'd go home and work on those things and come back and we'd be able to advance to the next level."

Bair's uncle, Kenny, coached Houck on the Westminster Titans while Houck was in middle school. They would discuss Houck, what he needed to work on, and together help him progress.

Houck was able to get his fastball up to the mid-80s, and Bair said his command of the pitch helped develop his overall game.

"I always told him if you could establish that, then his off-speed is going to look that much better," Bair said.

Winebrunner has been with Houck nearly as long, coaching him throughout his high school career. In 2010 and 2011, Winebrunner was Houck's coach on the junior varsity. Then, when Winebrunner succeeded Bryan Harman, he got Houck for an additional two years.

"He gave his all on the field, he never missed any workouts we ever had," Winebrunner said.

Winebrunner not only lauded Houck's intelligence in the classroom, but also his baseball IQ.

"He's just a smart player," Winebrunner said. "He'd work the count in his favor. On the first pitch of an at-bat he wouldn't swing at a pitchers' pitch."

Houck most surprised himself at the plate. He said he thought patience was the reason he did do so well.

"I looked for my pitch, hit mainly fastballs," Houck said. "I don't think I swung at a curveball until I had two strikes on me because I really attacked the fastballs earlier in the count."

Houck said hitting was his strong suit growing up.

Houck had been into baseball since he was 5 years old, playing even before tee-ball with his father, Bob, in the backyard. He played for Westminster Optimist and Charles Carroll leagues, eventually moving up to play for the Westminster Titans.

In his sophomore season, Houck was called up to the varsity team and was a member of the Class 4A championship squad. Houck never got to play, however. He was the second pitcher on the Owls behind Chad Diehl as a junior, and went 5-1 with a 1.45 ERA.

Prior to Houck's senior season, Westminster assistant coach Jesse Barnes told Winebrunner, "That's our future ace."

And Winebrunner said he expected Houck to be as dominant as he was.

"He hit that nail on the head," Winebrunner said. "You could see it when he was a freshman. He had all the tools. What he was able to do for this team last year led me to believe he would perform."

Houck and the Owls were unable to earn championship rings, however, as they fell to Catonsville in an extra-innings regional final.

"I didn't want it to end like that," Houck said, "but at least it was a good game and we had a good year going up to it."

With all that Houck accomplished this year, his father said it was Trevor's balancing of activities that impressed him most.

"He was determined to get all his schoolwork done, and then he had time for everything else," Bob Houck said. "He's just a committed individual."

Houck plans to continue his baseball career playing for Division I Lafayette University, where he is also enrolling in the engineering program. Winebrunner said he's confident it won't be a problem for Houck, especially because he's so smart.

"With his demeanor, I think Trevor will be successful," Winebrunner said. "Trevor realizes he's going to have to put in the work, and he will."