Catcher on the rise

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 15, 2002

[04/14/02]CLEVELAND Bo and Craig Newton helped build the foundation for Warren Central’s success, but they didn’t get to enjoy the rewards of last year’s state championship.

They’re trying to make up for that in college, although the roles have reversed for the Newton boys.

Craig Newton has become a key cog in the lineup for Delta State, ranked No. 1 in the nation in Division II, while his brother has been forced to watch from the bench.

It’s a view Craig Newton became familiar with early on. There was one year Bo made all-stars and Craig didn’t. Then, their freshman year at WC, Bo started while Craig, who was a tad lighter and a tad shorter than his brother, sat in the dugout.

Now the tide has turned.

Craig Newton, a sophomore, is DSU’s starting catcher and leads the team with a gaudy .462 batting average, while Bo Newton is used sparingly as part of a deep, talented pitching staff.

“Bo is very supportive of me, but it hurts me to see him not go on road trips with the team,” Craig Newton said.

The role reversal has been a learning experience for his brother.

“I’m proud of him, and I understand now how he felt in high school,” Bo said.

There are no hard feelings, though.

“We’re not only brothers, but best friends,” Bo Newton said.

Converting from high school baseball to college was an easy transition for the brothers. Having the winning tradition at WC with former coach Sam Temple, who played at Delta State, made it an easy transition.

“The time I spent with the boys was a big pleasure,” said Temple, who led WC to the Class 5A state championship last year the year after the Newtons graduated. “It’s also pleasing to watch them play at my alma mater.”

Temple, who is now the coach at Clinton, was a catcher for Delta State, 1992-1993. Temple’s college connection with Delta State helped with the Newtons’ college choice.

Craig Newton benefited from the special knowledge Temple acquired playing behind the plate, and now is filling the shoes of his former high school coach.

“The special things that Bo and Craig learned in life, were taught to them by their parents,” he said.

The past two catchers for WC have gone on to play in college. Kevin Coker, who played on the state championship team last year, is redshirting at Southern Mississippi.

“I knew Craig had a great opportunity to play because of his character, work ethic and attitude,” Temple said.

Craig was redshirted as a freshman. That gave him time to mature as a player and also hit the weight room. He has bulked up to 180 pounds of muscle, much different than the scrawny kid he was in high school.

The opportunity to learn from Statesmen catcher Eli Whiteside, who was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles at the end of his junior year, helped Craig Newton to learn about leadership on the field. Whiteside’s departure also allowed him to be the starting catcher this year.

“I benefited more from being redshirted than I would have had I been playing. The two seniors, along with Whiteside, showed me that hard work pays off,” Craig Newton said.

“Craig got a shot and did a great job. He deserves everything he has worked toward,” DSU assistant coach Christian Ostrander said.

The twins’ highlight so far is pitching and catching together against Jackson State.

“When it happened, it made me think of old high school memories,” Bo Newton said.

Delta State is currently sitting in the driver’s seat in Division II with a 32-3 record and 12-1 in the Gulf South Conference.

Going to Delta State was a no-brainer for the twins.

“Delta State is the best kept secret in Mississippi,” Craig Newton said.