Flora star back in the sweet spot

Gillespie started at three positions before returning to catcher

Special to The StateMarch 25, 2013 

— Donald Gillespie is a sophomore, but the young A.C. Flora star has a career’s worth of highlights on his resume.

Since the seventh grade, Gillespie has been a varsity starter at three different positions. He began as a catcher at Lower Richland in 2010 before moving to A.C. Flora. As a Falcon, he was blocked from playing behind the plate by all-state catcher David Houser, so he manned third base in in 2010 and moved to shortstop a year ago while helping the Falcons win a state championship.

This spring, Gillespie has returned behind the plate as A.C. Flora’s primary catcher.

Oh, and he’s also the Falcons’ sometime third baseman, cleanup hitter and closer out of the bullpen.

“Some might think that’s an awful lot of put on anybody’s plate, but Donald can handle it,” Falcons coach Andy Hallett said. “He’s proven he can do what he’s asked to do for the good of the team. He’s a special kid in that regard. You tell him where you want him to play, and he goes out there without complaining. He’s also a very talented player. I’m sure he’s going to have some good (college scholarship) offers on the table by the time the season is over.”

Gillespie is happy to be back in a familiar spot.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be catching when David was here, but it’s fun to be putting the gear back on,” he said. “I’m comfortable back there. I’ve always enjoyed catching because you see the whole field and are involved on every pitch.”

Hallett knew he had a potential replacement for Houser when Gillespie first joined the program.

“I saw Donald catch before he came here, and it was obvious he had soft hands, a quick release and a strong arm,” Hallett said. “But David was the best I’d ever coached, and we had to find another position for (Gillespie).”

Gillespie was a rare eighth-grade starter for the Falcons in 2011 but didn’t settle in until Hallett moved him from second base to third.

Gillespie was such a success at the hot corner that Hallett didn’t hesitate to move him to shortstop — a move that reaped huge dividends.

Gillespie finished with the highest fielding percentage by an A.C. Flora shortstop in 14 years.

Entering this season, Hallett didn’t have to look far for Houser’s replacement.

“It was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned,” he said. “Donald has the tools and is working hard on the little things like framing pitches better and working on his blocking skills. But that’s really more of a case of him just knocking off some rust because he hadn’t been catching for two seasons. So far, he’s doing great.”

Gillespie couldn’t care less about where he plays.

“I’m a baseball player,” he says, “And I’ll play wherever I’m ask to play to help the team.”

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