He is the type of baseball player who gets dirt on his uniform every time he laces up his cleats and runs out on the diamond — even while playing his home games on an all-turf infield.
Known mostly for bunt singles and stellar defense, there isn’t much flamboyance to Lawrence High senior second baseman Trevor Champagne, but he possesses the kind of grit, mental toughness and other attributes that make him the ultimate teammate.
Lions coach Brad Stoll dubbed Champagne the best drag bunter he has ever coached, but that’s just the beginning of why Stoll and everyone else in the LHS dugout think so highly of the team’s 5-foot-6, 135-pound eight-hole hitter.
Defensively, he’ll dive to rob the other team of a hit or turn a double play on a hard-hit ground ball. He’ll go to the plate late in a game and ignite a rally. Even though he isn’t the fastest player on the field, he’ll read an opposing pitcher’s delivery and make himself a tough out on the base paths.
“He’s just one of those guys who is always in the right place,” Stoll said.
As far as Champagne is concerned, those intangibles are job requirements.
“I think that’s just being a ballplayer,” the senior said.
“Every one of these guys out here, they’re gonna bust their (butts) every single day.”
Given Champagne’s stature, opposing players and coaches might not see him as a threat, but Stoll and the rest of the Lions (14-8) know better as they head into a Class 6A state tournament first-round game against Blue Valley West (20-2) at 4 p.m. Friday at Kansas University’s Hoglund Ballpark.
“That’s what I love the most about him,” Stoll said. “When the people that are supposed to get it done don’t, that little dude steps up and does it for them.”
Senior pitcher Garrett Cleavinger has played baseball against or with Champagne since the two were in elementary school together in Baldwin. Champagne’s size, Cleavinger said, never held back his confidence as a player.
“He gets overlooked and underestimated all the time, but he’s such a competitor, one of the most competitive guys I know,” the LHS starting pitcher said. “He just hates to lose, absolutely hates it with a passion.”
Holding a .281 batting average with 12 RBI and 11 runs, Champagne’s relentless work ethic has made him the productive player he has become in his final season with the Lions. At one workout this past offseason, he didn’t want to give up on a drill, even though the lactic acid had built up in his legs to a point he could barely stand up, let alone walk.
“It’s not about if you can finish ’em,” Champagne said, recalling the workout, “it’s about heart and (overcoming) the mental block that’s in front of you.”
Champagne knows that kind of tenacity earned him a spot as a starter, and he trusts his teammates to have the same mind-set. If he gets on base, Champagne doesn’t doubt for a moment that he will score, because following him in the lineup is Kieran Severa, then the top of the order — Shane Willoughby, Troy Willoughby, Drew Green and Jake Vinoverski.
“Late in the game, when we’re down one or two (runs),” Champagne said, “we’re not mentally giving in.”
The Lions didn’t give up on their state tournament hopes, either, when they lost three of four games in a late-April skid. Those “speed bumps,” Champagne added, might have benefited the team.
“I think we just got past those because the coaches kept preaching the last three weeks in May,” he said. “As a team, I think we bought into that. We knew we would rather lose during the course of the season than lose these last five games (two at regional, three at state).”
According to senior shortstop Troy Willoughby, Lawrence might not be at state without its dirty little second baseman.
“We’re a completely different team without Trevor Champagne,” he said. “He’s like the glue that puts us all together, makes us a well oiled machine.”