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Buford grad Bart named first team All-American as catcher for Georgia Tech baseball team
Yellow Jackets junior a potential first-round pick in next week's MLB draft
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Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart, a Buford High graduate, waits for a pitch during a game against the University of Illinois-Chicago on March 2 in Atlanta. (Photo by Danny Karnik/GT Athletics) - photo by For The Times

Heading into his junior season as starting catcher for the Georgia Tech baseball team, Joey Bart didn’t set many individual goals for himself.

All he has done since then is pull in award after award, with the biggest accolades coming Thursday, May 31.

Bart, a 2015 Buford High graduate and former state champion, earned first team All-America recognition from both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Though he wasn’t specifically chasing the honor, Bart finally achieved it after several publications named him a 2017 midseason All-American and a preseason All-American before this year.

“I thought I’d have a shot at being a first team All-American,” he said. “If not last year, then this year. I thought if I just put some things together this year, I’d have a shot at it. It’s pretty cool, no doubt. It’s exciting, but I don’t have many personal goals or things like that.”

That didn’t stop voters from lauding Bart as one of the top players in the nation for his efforts in 2018.

He was certainly deserving.

Bart led the Atlantic Coast Conference in batting average (.359) while finishing second in the league with 79 hits and a slugging percentage of .632. The Buford native was also a force behind the plate, gunning down more than 36 percent of base stealers faced, racking up three pickoffs and posting a .992 fielding percentage.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder had team-highs for the Yellow Jackets with 16 home runs, 55 runs scored and a .471 on-base percentage, where were all top-10 conference marks. On May 21, the ACC picked Bart as both its Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.

His selection as a first team All-American came 10 days later, the culmination of an offseason Bart spent honing his craft after an already impressive sophomore campaign.

“I worked on all parts of my game, but more catching than anything,” Bart said. “I worked on my approach as a hitter as well. On the catching side, I was just trying to have fun and hoping my team wins some games.”

Georgia Tech did just that, improving to 31-27 following a losing season in 2017. But a quick exit from last week’s ACC Tournament — the Yellow Jackets experienced a 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh and a 9-0 defeat against top-seeded North Carolina — left them out of the national tournament.

Bart has spent the past week working out with his Georgia Tech strength coach in preparation for the follow-up to his All-American season, which might not occur in Atlanta.

Many pundits consider the former Wolves star to be a first-round pick, potentially in the top 10 overall, in next week’s 2018 MLB Draft. He’s at least among the best at his position — Baseball America pegged him as the top Division I catcher, and slotted him at No. 2.

Bart was drafted out of high school in the 27th round by the Tampa Bay Rays before electing to join the Yellow Jackets. He said opting for college baseball was “definitely the best decision I’ve made” and that “the way it worked out was great.”

But now Bart has the opportunity to further cement himself as one of the top players in the country, though he’s not sure how the draft will pan out once it begins Monday.

“You hear some things heading into the draft, so whatever happens, happens,” Bart said. “I’ve heard some things that might put me around the top-10 range, but who knows? I might not even get picked.”

That seems unlikely, considering the type of awards Bart has garnered this year.

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