Flying around the basepaths and providing a spark at the plate and in the field, Lookout Valley's Zane Howard is a high school baseball jack of all trades.
The senior shortstop and leadoff hitter has a respect and love for the game that goes beyond playing. Every day after practice, Howard typically takes 100 swings in the cage and then does glove work for 30 minutes against a brick wall.
At night he likes to watch baseball highlight on YouTube.
"When I get home I usually watch fielding videos," Howard said. "I love to watch Ron Washington work with the Braves position players, along with Ozzie Smith and Brandon Crawford. Ozzie is my favorite player. He made all the plays and sprayed the ball around the field. I can't do any backflips yet, but I am working on it."
After a solid junior season, Howard seems to have elevated his game in 2019. He is 9-for-18 (.500) with three doubles, eight RBIs and 13 runs scored, and he is 9-for-9 in stolen bases after running for three touchdowns covering 78 yards or more as an all-region dual-threat quarterback during football season.
Also making "Web Gem" types of plays deep in the hole or charging slow rollers, Howard has provided quite the wow factor.
"They say good things happen to good people who work hard. Zane is that guy," Lookout Valley coach Lance Rorex said. "He works his butt off and gives us a spark in the leadoff spot we feed off of. He is part of a senior class who knows what we expect and what our standards are. Their work ethic is contagious."
Howard stands just 5-foot-8 1/2 and weighs 160 pounds, but that is almost identical to the frame of Atlanta Braves All-Star second baseman Ozzie Albies.
"I have always been taught hard work beats talent any day," said Howard, a future Cleveland State Cougar who has made it a goal to hit over .400 this season. "When I step on the field, I know people aren't going to be like, 'Oh, this kid is a monster.' When I play, I try to play as big as I can. My size isn't going to stop what I can do."
Or what the Yellow Jackets can do. Having dedicated their season to the memory of former Lookout Valley player T.J. Gravitt — who died as the result of an auto accident — they are 6-0 headed into Monday's 4 p.m. District 4-A game at Arts & Sciences. Howard has added a personal season dedication to his uncle, K.C. Hill, another former Yellow Jacket who was severely injured in a wreck.
"It's amazing to carry on the legacy of this baseball program," said Howard, who played for eXposure Baseball and the Diamond Jacks last summer. "Winning 27 games last year was special, but we have even larger goals this season. God has given me the ability to play baseball at a high level, and I am not going to waste it."
Creating a legacy himself at Lookout Valley, Howard's drive is one many can look to and rally around.
"Zane plays bigger than most people on the field just because of who he is," Rorex said. "His attitude and work ethic is contagious. Our guys all love him and feed off him. It's special to know every day he and our guys are working to get better."