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From the cornfields to centerfield

sports, owatonna, NRHEG, Andrew Phillips
NRHEG’s Andrew Phillips makes a catch in the outfield against Medford last week. Phillips plays centerfield for the Panthers, and credits his love for the position to all the hours he spent catching fly balls at home on his family’s farm with his father, Aaron. Staff photo by Johnnie Phillips
Johnnie Phillips, Sports Editor
“Baseball is my love. I’m not sure how to describe it other than I just love the game.”
-Andrew Phillips, Panthers Centerfielder

As a self-described “country boy,” NRHEG’s Andrew Phillips has two major loves in this world: living life on his family farm near Hartland, and the game of baseball.

After torching opposing defenses on the football field last fall as a running back for the Panthers’ football team, Phillips has traded in his shoulder pads and helmet for a glove and a hat as a member of the Panthers’ baseball team this spring.

“Baseball is my love. I’m not sure how to describe it other than I just love the game. It’s definitely my first love when it comes to sports,” said Phillips.

Panther fans haven’t had a hard time spotting Phillips on the baseball field this spring, as the junior centerfielder and lead-off batter has been a major contributor both offensively and defensively for NRHEG’s 7-2 overall-record squad this season.

In fact, the junior launched his first home run of the season and first-ever grand slam against Kenyon-Wanamingo last week.

“I think I had an 0-2 count when I hit it. I wasn’t really looking to swing too hard because I didn’t want to strike out, but the pitcher gave me a hanging changeup and I knew right off the bat I made solid contact. I knew it was gone when I rounded first and saw it. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, it’s still carrying. That has to be gone.’”

Through nine games, Phillips has torched teams for eight hits, 14 runs and nine RBIs – almost averaging a cumulative one hit, run and RBI per game.

When asked about his role as a centerfielder, Phillips said that he grew to love the position as he developed strong skills in being able to read the ball off the bat.

The junior credited his father, Aaron, with helping him develop the skill and said that all of the hours that the elder Phillips hit him fly balls in the field was what led to his success in the outfield.

As could be expected with athletes who shine in the sport, Phillips has received interest from multiple Division One schools, but has yet to make a decision or commit to any offers as he is still a junior and has one more year of eligibility.

A true “country boy” at heart, Phillips did say that he is hoping to stay somewhat close to his family’s farm in Hartland so he can continue to help in the fields when he can.

Those looking to watch Phillips and the Panthers continue their 2022 run can watch the team suit up for its next game on the road against WEM on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

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