Friday, June 4, 2010

Gatorade(R) National Baseball Player of the Year: Kaleb Cowart

/PRNewswire/ -- In its 25th year of honoring the nation's best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with ESPN RISE, today announced Kaleb Cowart of Cook High School (Adel, Ga.) as its 2009-10 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year. Cowart was surprised with the news while he was taking a baseball team photo at Cook High School by 13-year Major League Baseball veteran Delino DeShields, also a Gatorade State Baseball Player of the Year as a high school senior.

"It felt great to surprise Kaleb with the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year award and welcome him into one of the most prestigious legacy programs in high school sports," said DeShields, who stole 463 bases in his distinguished career, capping the 1997 season as the National League leader in triples. "Gatorade has been on the sidelines fueling athletic performance for years, so to be recognized by a brand that understands the game and truly helps athletes perform is a huge honor for these kids."

By claiming the 219th National Player of the Year trophy to be awarded in the program's 25-year history, Cowart joins two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard (2003-04, Southwest Atlanta Christian, Atlanta) and 2010 NCAA Final Four MVP Maya Moore (2006-07, Collins Hill, Suwanee), both of whom were ultimately named Gatorade High School Athletes of the Year, as the only high school athletes from the state of Georgia to earn Gatorade National Player of the Year recognition in any sport.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Cowart as the nation's best high school baseball player. A national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists helped select Cowart from more than 473,000 high school baseball players nationwide. Cowart is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award, to be presented at a special afternoon ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.

The 6-foot-3 1/2, 195-pound senior right-handed pitcher and switch-hitting third baseman led the Hornets (31-5) to the Class 2A best-of-three state championship series this season, where they handed eventual champion Calhoun High (35-1) its only loss of the year before falling, two games to one. Cowart finished 10-1 on the mound along with a save, posting a 1.05 ERA and collecting 116 strikeouts in 73 innings. At the plate, he batted .654 with 11 home runs, 59 RBIs and 55 runs scored, concluding his senior campaign with a 1.206 slugging percentage, a.721 on-base percentage and 36 stolen bases in 36 attempts. His 2010 batting average ranks second all-time in state history among single-season totals.

A 2009 Aflac All-American, Cowart is a three-time First Team All-State selection and is rated the nation's No. 6 prospect in the Class of 2010 by Perfect Game USA and No. 13 by Baseball America.

Cowart graduated with a 94.5 GPA in the classroom. He has volunteered in association with the Cook High Anchor Club, participating in service projects to assist needy local families and children as well as blood-donation drives and a literacy-outreach initiative for elementary-age students. He has also donated his time on behalf of his Fellowship Baptist Church. A past member of the Cook High Student Leadership Team, which facilitates freshman assimilation on campus, Cowart has also served as an Adel-Cook Recreation Department youth sports volunteer.

"I think Cowart has the chance to become the next Chipper Jones," said Cook High Head Coach Bob Owsley. "He has all the skill and tools it takes to succeed at a very high level. He's without a doubt the best player I have ever coached."

Cowart has signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball on scholarship at Florida State University this fall, but is projected as an early round selection in next week's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

"Without question, Kaleb is deserving of recognition as the nation's best high school baseball player based on his statistics on the field and the impact his accomplishments have had on Cook High School's success," said Gatorade Senior Vice President of Sports Marketing Jennifer Storms. "But he is also a shining example to peers and aspiring young players of what a leader and a student-athlete should be. He represents everything we hope for in a Gatorade Player of the Year recipient."

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by ESPN RISE and the Gatorade high school sports leadership team, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.

To celebrate the award's 25th anniversary, Gatorade wants you to vote for the All-Time Greatest Baseball Player of the Year at For more information on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination information, a complete list of former winners, and future announcement dates, visit the Gatorade Player of the Year Web site at, on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at

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