King Jr. seeing hard work pay off
The daily routine for graduated Calvert Hall baseball star Lamar King Jr. starts in the batting cage at 7:30 in the morning.
For the 18-year-old Perry Hall resident, a first-team All-Metro catcher and Georgia Tech commit, a typical week also includes four days of lifting weights, three days focusing on conditioning and two days of yoga to improve his flexibility.
If it appears to be a demanding grind, King thinks otherwise.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “It’s like my happy place — hitting, the gym and baseball in general. So it’s fun for me and I don’t feel like it’s work. It’s things I love to do.”
With the hard work serving as his foundation, King has put himself in an excellent spot.
He can continue on with his plans to play at Georgia Tech, which has produced a lengthy list of quality catchers, including former Orioles star Matt Wieters and current top prospect Kevin Parada.
Or, with expectations of being selected high in the Major League Baseball draft that starts Sunday night, he might be ready to pursue his lifelong dream of turning pro.
“It’s exciting. We’re just going to see what happens in the draft and then we’re going to put all the options on the table and pick what’s the best fit for me at this time,” King said.
A varsity player since his freshman year, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound King took his game to a higher level in a senior season that raised his draft stock. He batted .506 with 14 home runs and 38 RBIs as the Cardinals finished with a 17-6 mark in longtime coach Lou Eckerl’s final season.
ESPN baseball analyst Kiley McDaniel, a former pro scout, ranks King at No. 102 in his list of the Top 300 prospects for the 2022 draft.
“He’s been a riser this spring, into the late 2nd-3rd round range for some clubs,” McDaniel wrote in a text. “King has a wide base of skills — steady defender, above average arm and raw power — that’s performed well in games and plays the most demanding position on the field.”
Another one of King’s constants is the positive talks he shares with his father, Lamar King Sr., who played five years in the NFL after being a first-round draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 1999.
An Essex native who went to Chesapeake High School, King Sr. saw the special athletic attributes his son had at an early age and has continually reinforced the importance of bringing a nonstop work ethic that’s needed to reach the highest level.
“We talk about the obstacles you have to overcome. Everybody has some success, but how do you deal with things when you’re not going well — how do you go about that?” King Sr. said. “I’m always saying ‘Trust the process.’ You may struggle at times, but you have to stay the course, still put the work in. Having played at the highest level, that’s my job to support him and mentor him and show him how to go about it.
“He loves the game of baseball and he loves putting in the work. It’s something I get joy from and I’m so proud of him because he stays humble during the whole process, and everything is ‘How can I get better?’ ”
The younger King is grateful to have that open dialogue with his father, an invaluable tool that is paying off.
“On the mental side, he’s taught me so much because he’s been there and done that. So he’s like an open book for me and always there to help. It’s great to have,” King Jr. said.
This spring, the Cardinals had a relatively young team looking to end Eckerl’s 21-year coaching career at Calvert Hall on a high note. With King leading the way — he ranked first on the team in most offensive statistics and was a rock defensively behind the plate — the Cardinals made a formidable run in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference playoffs.
During the season, Eckerl gave King the rare responsibility of calling pitches, making him one of the few catchers in program history to do so. After the season, longtime assistant coach Brooks Kerr delivered high praise in describing King as the top prospect in the storied program’s history. Shortstop Jose Torres, a 2019 Calvert Hall grad, was the 89th overall pick by the Cincinnati Reds last year after two seasons at North Carolina State.
“His senior year was really awesome,” Eckerl said of King. “For being a big guy, how small he gets behind the plate and his soft hands are impressive. He was an extremely hard worker, so all his technique was very good. He had a great year because he prepared himself.”
King, who was born in Vancouver and has lived in Baltimore since he was 6 years old, started catching when he was 12. From the start, he felt at home behind the plate.
“With catching, I think it’s the best position on the field because you have control of the game,” he said. “I really just try to play like when I was a little kid. It’s best — not overthinking things — just feel like a little kid out there on the baseball field.”