KINGSPORT - Dobyns-Bennett's Derek Trent really loves baseball.
So far, it's looking like baseball loves him back.
Heading into Tuesday's game against Science Hill, the 2007 Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American was hitting .489 with seven home runs on the season.
Last November, Trent signed to play college baseball at East Tennessee State University. This spring, the number of professional baseball scouts hanging around J. Fred Johnson Stadium indicate that he could be selected in this year's Major League Baseball draft.
How does the D-B senior catcher deal with the pressure? He just keeps his mind on the game.
"Most of the time I don't even notice if the scouts are even there. I don't know they're there until after the game," he said. "I just try to do what I normally do."
Dobyns-Bennett coach Mike Ritz says Trent is the best baseball player to come through the Kingsport program since Jason Adams (1997) and Chris Mobley (2001).
"First of all, I think he's really a very good baseball player," Ritz said. "He has good hands. He throws well. He catches well. He runs well.
"He has a good mind for baseball and a lightning-quick bat. He has a good working knowledge of the game, which you don't see a lot anymore."
Trent hit .500 as a sophomore, .440 as a junior and has 30 career home runs. He played in the outfield as a sophomore, but Ritz recognized the youngter's unusual degree of baseball savvy would be put to better use behind the plate - where he's played the last two seasons.
Trent can make the throw to second base in 1.9 seconds. Not a lot of would-be base stealers get past him. He's a good hitter who knows how to work a hitter. Ritz trusts Trent to call the pitches - a gigantic vote of confidence at the high school level.
"We don't call the game. He calls the game," Ritz said. "If he makes a mistake, you tell him and you never see that same mistake again."
For Trent, it's all in a day's work.
"They say the catcher is the leader of the field. I just try to do my best back there," said Trent, who also is an honor student at D-B. "You've just got to stay focused and call the right pitches at the right time."
While he also played football and basketball as a youngster, Trent focused his athletic efforts entirely on baseball once he started high school.
"I knew I was better at baseball than both of those," he said.
His fraternal twin, Darin, is having a solid season as D-B's designated hitter. His brother is probably better known as a cross-country standout with the Indians and has had a few offers to run in college.
If baseball isn't Trent's all-consuming passion, you'd be hard-pressed to locate any rivals competing for his affections. He enjoys playing sports video games with friends. His favorite movies are baseball movies, from sweet ("The Sandlot") to salty ("Major League").
Trent is a longtime fan of the Atlanta Braves - his whole family is comprised of Braves fans, he said - but he has never felt antipathy toward any other Major League team. Not the New York Mets. Not even the New York Yankees.
Perhaps that itself points to the invisible line separating avid players from rabid fans. Trent follows the big leagues, but only up to a point.
"I'll sit there and watch a couple of innings or so, but I don't usually sit through the whole game," he said. "I can see what happened on SportsCenter."
When it comes to playing the game, however, he doesn't want to miss a single pitch.
"Everybody needs a break sometime. But I've always loved playing," he said. " I couldn't get enough of it."