Central senior Key thriving after being forced into DH role

Travis Key was an all-conference catcher the past two years for Central. This year, Key isn’t calling games behind the plate, but is still making a difference. An injury forced Key into being a full-time DH, a role the senior is doing very well. Key is hitting .357 and has a team-high 21 RBI.

With every at-bat, Central High School’s Travis Key is showing his character.

Key is the Warriors’ designated hitter, and was forced into the role after three years as Central’s starting catcher. The past two seasons he has been an all-conference catcher, but an elbow injury has limited Key to a batting-only role.

Key chipped a bone in his right elbow during the Warriors’ basketball season, and after getting a late start to the season after a run in the 5A basketball playoffs, Key noticed something wasn’t right.

“I could feel the bone moving around in there, and my arm would lock up,” Key said. “I went to the doctor right after the first game because that is when I started seeing I couldn’t throw.”

Key said he was told by the doctor that he had to stop throwing because the bone was tearing cartilage. That was the bad news. The good news was the injury would not affect his hitting.

For Central coach Chuck Yost, having Key in a limited role was better than not having him at all for the Warriors (8-6, 1-4 Southwestern League).

“Coming into his senior year, it’s tough to say ‘you’re going to have to have a limited role,’ ” Yost said. “But he stays as positive as he can, and the kids look up to him.”

Already signed with Eastern Arizona College, Key had the option to have surgery directly after basketball season and miss his senior season. Key said he was advised by Eastern Arizona coach Jim Bagnall to finish his high school career on the field.

“He told me I could get it done after the season,” Key said. “It will be like a two- to three-month recovery, and I can continue to rehab it down there and be ready to play.”

The changes for Key this season are obvious, going from playing every inning and focusing on calling a good game behind the plate to batting an average of every other inning.

“It’s been hard on me,” Key said. “I have been a go-to guy behind the plate and in the lineup, and
it’s been hard not being able to help those guys on the field.”

Key still makes a difference in his limited role, hitting .357 and leading the team with 21 RBI. He has drawn 10 walks and has a .529 on-base percentage.

“I knew I had to be more focused as a hitter, and really work on that aspect of my game,” Key said.

“Now I have to be more mentally prepared, because I get to hit, then I have to sit on the bench.

That has made me stayed focused on being prepared every time at the plate.”

Yost said having Key in the lineup any way possible helps.

“He has been productive,” Yost said. “It’s a chance for us to keep him in the lineup because he is a good hitter, and always has been a good hitter.”

With Central’s win over Montezuma-Cortez on Tuesday, Yost said the goals for the Warriors are all very short-term. Central plays Grand Junction at 6 p.m. on Friday at Suplizio Field.

“We had to get a league win,” Yost said. “Now we’ll take it game by game. I don’t think a league title is in our reach, but if we piece enough wins together, maybe we can get a playoff berth.”


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