Leading from home

Skyline's Hunter Partlowe steals third base against Central on Thursday. Partlowe has been starting catcher for four years, and has helped the Hawks to a 4-2 start this season. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — Hunter Partlowe feels right at home at home plate.

The Skyline senior loves baseball in general, but there’s nothing he loves better than being behind the plate.

“I like catching because you always have to be in the game,” Partlowe said. “There is never a dull moment because the ball is always coming right to you — maybe it gets hit, maybe it doesn’t. It might be in the dirt, it might not. So you always have to be on your toes and that’s what I like about it. And you know you’re like the leader of the field because you get to see the whole field and I like being like the leader.”

Partlowe said he doesn’t mind squatting during the game, and even squats while he’s watching TV.

“I squat down instead of sitting in the chair,” Partlowe said. “It’s just how I do it. It’s relaxing, it makes me think we’re playing when we can’t.”

Partlowe said he’s been a catcher since he started playing when he was little. He’s been Skyline’s catcher since his freshman season, and admitted he was a little nervous at first but he’s grown very comfortable in his role.

He said his relationship with the pitchers has also grown.

“In the beginning, as a freshman playing with seniors, I was timid like maybe these kids won’t like me or something, so I was skittish. Now the friendship with the pitchers is amazing. It’s something that will never be broken.”

Skyline coach Jay Barnes said Partlowe’s experience has been a real treat for him and the team.

“I don’t have to say anything to him if we’re in bunt coverage, he knows what to do and as a head coach that makes it nice,” Barnes said. “If we’re in bunt coverage, he knows the situation and I don’t have to remind him.”

Partlowe also plays football, but said he loves baseball better and he plans to play in college as well.

During the summer he plays for the Front Royal American Legion team, which includes players from all over the area, especially Skyline and Warren County. He said he’s played with a lot of the Warren County players since they were little and even though they go to a different school, they still have a good relationship.

“A lot of the kids on Skyline and Warren County I’ve played with since Little League, since we possibly could start playing,” Partlowe said. “And now we’re at two different schools so it’s a smaller rival, but before the game we’re hanging out and after the game we’re going to dinner. So it’s just in between the walls of the field where we don’t know each other. But other than that, it’s pretty cool being able to call them up and be like, ‘Hey, you want to go hit off the tee or go play some catch’ and then they’re always right there.”

Partlowe is also the bullpen catcher for the Front Royal Cardinals sometimes during the Valley Baseball League season.

“That’s really fun, because you’re catching college kids that are a whole lot bigger then high school kids and throw the ball a whole lot harder,” Partlowe said. “The atmosphere is completely different from high school to college ball and that’s something that I’ve always wanted to do is play college baseball.”

Partlowe said he’s really improved offensively over the last few years as well, and he said he wants to try to hit .400 this season (he batted .340 last year). He said being a catcher does help him at the plate.

Even though he likes hitting, Partlowe said there’s nothing like being behind the plate.

“When that play is coming home and the runner’s coming down, you don’t know if he’s going to slide or if he’s going to run you over, and just the adrenaline rush that you get when you make a big play or throw somebody out. It’s amazing,” Partlowe said.

The Hawks are off to a 4-3 start, and have won three games in a row.

With eight seniors on the team, Partlowe said the leadership and team chemistry has been much better this year. Partlowe said he thinks the team can have a very good season to finish out his high school career.

“We’ve come together a whole lot since last year,” Partlowe said. “Big time improvement with the attitudes, team bonding. We go to dinner once a week after a game or something. The team right now is bonding really well. We’ve had a couple kids step up big for us, and hopefully they can continue to do that for the rest of this year.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com