As his own harshest critic, Bastrop senior left fielder Khalil Key probably doesn't realize just how much he has improved since his freshman season.
“His growth since his freshman year to now has been phenomenal,” Bastrop coach Whit Whitlock said. “He's such a better ballplayer than he was his freshman year. He works hard and does what we ask him to do every day.”
Setting unrealistic self expectations, Key can be his own worst enemy.
“The physical ability has always been there,” Whitlock said. “Khalil is very hard on himself. Even the best players who have ever played this game failed (to get a hit) seven out of 10 times. Khalil has gotten better this year at keeping a positive attitude instead of getting so down on himself every time he makes an out.”
In his first year as a full-time starter, Key is still learning the game.
“Khalil is really starting to understand how to work his at bats and do the small things that will make him successful,” Whitlock said. “He's starting to learn the nuances of the game.”
Key may have made his biggest improvement on defense.
“His outfield play has gotten a lot better,” Whitlock said. “Next to (center fielder) Morgan Edmonds, Khalil is probably the second-best player on the team at tracking a ball and getting to the spot.”
Whitlock says he never has to worry about Key slacking in practice.
“Khalil is one of those guys you just enjoy being around as a coach,” Whitlock said. “He gives nothing less than his best and expects his teammates to do the same.”
Top 1st: When did you start playing baseball?
Khalil Key: When I was 6, I played T-Ball for Mer Rouge Medical Center. Coach Eric Jenkins was our coach.
Bottom 1st: Which memory sticks out from your first season?
Key: In one of our first practices, I was running too hard rounding first base and tripped over the bag.
Top 2nd: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of baseball?
Key: My favorite part is that no matter how bad things get, you always have another chance.
The worst part is you can't be overly-aggressive.
Bottom 2nd: Tell us about the best game you have ever played.
Key: Earlier this year, we were playing Minden at Minden. I can't remember exactly what I did, but I think I went 2-for-3. I hit a double, beat out a bunt single and caught a couple of fly balls.
Page 2 of 2 - Top 3rd: How important is it for the Rams to make the playoffs?
Key: It's almost as important as attending church every Sunday. It's the last chance for me and I'm not ready for it to be over.
Bottom 3rd: What improvements do the Rams need to make going into the Franklin Parish series?
Key: First of all, we have to play as a team. We have to swing the bat better and continue playing defense like we have been. We had a couple of guys quit early in the year, so our (pitching) rotation is a little thin.
Top 4th: Who is the toughest pitcher you have ever faced?
Key: Matt Reeves from Neville. He keeps the ball on the outside part of the plate and changes speeds with his fastball. He had me hitting off my front leg with his changeup.
Bottom 4th: What is the best coaching advice you have ever received?
Key: Always keep playing hard no matter what happens and play to the best of your ability on every play. That came from coach Whitlock.
Top 5th: What advice would you give to younger players?
Key: The one regret I have is I wish I would have started training hard sooner. Your time in high school goes by so quick, so I would tell the younger players to start training hard now and to be resilient.
Bottom 5th: What are you going to miss the most about playing high school baseball?
Key: I'm going to miss Baron Ballpark and the connection I have with my teammates. It's almost like we're a family.
Top 6th: Tell us about your paintings.
Key: I've probably done about 70. I like to do real-life art — still art, cultural-type stuff. I've done a lot of abstracts. My favorite painting is 'Practice Makes Perfect;' it's of a girl playing the piano.
Bottom 6th: What are your summer plans?
Key: I plan to hit the weight room and start training for college ball.
Top 7th: What are your future plans?
Key: I plan on going to Grambling, majoring in mechanical engineering and playing baseball.
Bottom 7th: Why mechanical engineering?
Key: It's something I've discussed with my grandfather (Henry Cotton) and it's a high-paying job.