St. Thomas More’s Chase Vallot lands Mr. Baseball honors _lowres

St. Thomas More's Chase Vallot (photo by Leslie Westbrook, The Advertiser)

Chase Vallot seemingly has won a batting cage full of awards since leading St. Thomas More to the Class 4A state baseball title last month.

The catcher added two more honors this week — the Louisiana Farm Bureau/Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s Mr. Baseball award and the Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year award from Collegiate Baseball.

“Getting Mr. Baseball or a National Player of the Year award isn’t anything I expected,” he said. “This all means so much. … It means everything. I thank God for putting me in the position I’m in. It shows that the work I did paid off, but none of this would have been possible without my team.”

Those comments and reference to his team come as no surprise to STM coach Gary Perkins, who sees Vallot as more than an MVP or the guy with the big swing who netted a championship ring.

“The first time I met Chase, he was a ninth-grader who was still a little on the chunky side,” Perkins said. “He came to school with his dad (Chad), and I could see right away they both loved baseball. It didn’t take me long to see there was more to it. He’d spend extra time in the batting cage and later on in the weight room.

“When we were done with our workouts, his dad would come out to throw to him. He got bigger and stronger, and he made himself better.”

Vallot is the first player from a Lafayette school to win the LSWA’s Mr. Baseball award. He also made some history as the 40th overall pick by the Kansas City Royals in Major League Baseball draft just over a week ago.

Vallot signed with the Royals and has started his pro career at the Royals’ Arizona training complex. An assignment to the rookie-level farm team in Burlington, North Carolina, is up next for the kid who had to sit out his freshman season at STM because he came to the school from a nearby parish.

As a sophomore, Perkins said Vallot split time with older players. By the time he was a junior, Vallot was chiseling his own identity, thanks in part to an intense offseason weight-training regimen.

“I would say that (my senior season) was better than my junior year,” Vallot said.

To call the 2014 season his best is perhaps an understatement by the 6-foot, 205-pound catcher. He hit .545 with 13 home runs, 15 doubles, one triple and 60 RBIs.

Vallot, who signed with Mississippi State, nearly doubled his RBI total even though some schools chose not to pitch to him.

Vallot’s big swing has become the most recognizable part of his game. Before his junior season, his bat speed was measured at 100 mph during a camp at Mississippi State — the hitter’s equivalent of a pitcher’s 100-mph fastball.

“They tested us for bat speed, but they didn’t tell us how we did until the end,” Vallot said. “I figured I was average. But then they gave the award for the guy with the highest bat speed, and it was me at 100 miles an hour. I had no idea.”

But Perkins did.

“In all the years I’ve coached, I’ve maybe seen two of three other guys swing it like he does,” he said. “The last time I saw a player like that, it was in the 1990s. It’s very rare.”

The humble Vallot points to his family and work ethic as the not-so-secret components of his success. He can cite a specific example: Last fall, Vallot weighed 225 pounds and put himself on a CrossFit regimen to lose weight and increase his agility and endurance.

“Coming into high school, I never thought I’d have the chance to play college baseball or be a draft prospect,” Vallot said. “I’m going to keep working to reach my goal of playing in the majors. Winning a state title is something I know I’ll remember forever.”