There is a rumor around South Carroll High School that Jeremy Hancock has been hitting vicious line drives since the day he was born.
But anybody who has ever seen the senior catcher stride to the plate, take a couple of practice swings and then dig in to face the pitcher realizes this 6-foot, 195-pound athlete is a natural hitter.
Some days it is virtually impossible to get the Cavaliers' No. 4 hitter out.
Like last Thursday when Hancock blistered Liberty pitching for a single, double, triple and five RBIs to raise his batting average to .593, on-base percentage to .621 and slugging percentage to 1.074.
No wonder Hancock says that "hitting is my passion."
"Hitting kind of always came to me," he said. "My dad [George Hancock, who played for Mount St. Joe in 1967 and 1968] taught me everything about baseball. He's coached me almost all my life and helped me with my hitting."
Right now, Hancock is virtually carrying 11th-ranked South Carroll (5-3) with his bat, which has produced seven doubles, two triples and one home run among his 16 hits.
He also has 11 RBIs, scored 10 runs and stolen two bases and could go on to break several Cavaliers career offensive records. Hancock already has more career doubles (17) than anybody else in school history.
His career batting average at South Carroll is .415.
First-year Cavaliers' coach Brad Collins said three things set Hancock apart from many high school players.
"He loves competing, he loves baseball and he challenges himself," said Collins. "He's a pleasure to be around as a player and person. You can tell he has played the game and knows the fundamentals. Jeremy has spent a lot of years developing his talent."
Last season, Hancock also showed that he is a team player when he volunteered to move from his most comfortable position (third base) to catcher when Greg Mihalko gave up baseball after an outstanding sophomore season.
"Jeremy could have very easily said he was going to play third base and not have anything to do with catching," said his father, who was an assistant to head coach Joe Foltz last season at South Carroll. "He had always played third or first base. Catching isn't the easier position to play without any experience."
But Hancock accepted the challenge and said he "just grew into the position."
"I like catching because you have to keep your head in the game at all times and you're always working with the pitchers," he said. "But blocking all the low pitches and working with all that equipment was tough to deal with at first."
In the long run, the move behind the plate served to raise Hancock's value as a player in the eyes of Mary Washington baseball coach Tom Sheridan, who successfully recruited Hancock to the Division III school in Fredericksburg, Va.
"Tom knows that Jeremy is a third baseman first and a catcher second," said George Hancock. "He said the fact that Jeremy can play two positions is all that much better."
Jeremy Hancock said he doesn't care where Sheridan plays him on defense.
"He can do anything he wants as long as he lets me hit," said Hancock. Speaking of hitting again, Hancock talked about his biggest thrill to date in baseball.
"It was my sophomore year and we were playing Westminster at South Carroll and we had the fence up that day," he said. "Chris Archambault was pitching for Westminster. I revered him as a pitcher because I had read so much about him, and I almost put one out of the park off him with the bases loaded, one out and a 3-2 count on me. The ball hit the fence."