Looking at Payton Edmondson toe the pitching rubber for the Highland Rebels his freshman and sophomore years probably didn't strike a whole lot of fear into the hearts of opposing batters.
While he did have good command of his pitches, Edmondson's physical presence was a tad bit on the less-than-imposing side.
But that was then, and that is certainly not the case now.
Thanks to a growth spurt, combined with a lot of hard sweat and toil in the weight room, that skinny freshman has morphed into an impressive 6-0, 190-pound senior.
And all that hard work has also paid off in the form of a college scholarship to Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge.
Edmondson signed a letter of intent to play baseball for the Eagles Nov. 20 in a ceremony held inside John A. Cooper Memorial Gymnasium on the Highland High School campus.
More than just a sculpting of the body, Highland Head Baseball Coach Spencer Hill is quick to point out that the key ingredient that makes Edmondson the player he is goes more than skin deep -- good character.
"The first thing you think of about Payton is what a great kid he is. A hard-working kid that just does everything right," Hill said. "He's one of those that you call a coach's dream. If I could keep coaching kids like him, I'd coach another 40 years. He's just the type of kid that is high character, and that comes from his parents and his upbringing."
While his attitude has remained firm over the past three years, his physique has not.
"When he was a freshman and sophomore, he was a little-bitty shrimp," said Hill. "But he's hit the weights and he's just now hit his growth spurt. And I think he's still got some more growing to do. So that'll be exciting. But fundamentally, he's got really quick hands and when you play at that next level, you've got to have quick hands, and he has that. He's got a lot of natural, raw ability -- his up-side is just tremendous."
WBC Assistant Coach Frank Lee also noticed Edmondson's transformation over the course of the past couple of baseball seasons.
"His sophomore year, I was recruiting over in Valley View at the Xtra Innings Classic, and he came in and pitched after playing second base and he caught my eye," said Lee. "I knew I recognized the name, because I knew his father. And I thought, 'Man, that little kid is scrappy.' He didn't throw real hard and wasn't fully mature yet, but I told myself I was going to keep an eye on him."
And keep an eye on Edmondson is just what Lee did.
"Then last year, I got to see him play some as a junior and boy, the strides he made from his sophomore year to his junior year were amazing. So, I stayed in contact with him and then he came and had a real good workout for us, so we made a scholarship offer and he accepted. We're glad to have him."
Lee envisions Edmondson working his way into the Eagles' pitching rotation.
"I think we can get him a little leaner, a little stronger and work on his mechanics a little bit," he said. "He hit 81 (mph) for us in his tryouts and I think with just a little work, minimal work, he can get to 84. And at our level, 84 to 86 (mph) would be very successful. So we're excited."
When it came down to a choice of where to attend college, Williams Baptist College and the town of Walnut Ridge was a natural fit for Edmondson.
"I grew up in Walnut Ridge and know the area pretty good, and my grandma lives there," Edmondson said. "So, I'm close to family. Plus, Caleb Orosz, Kolby King and Chase Duggins (former Highland baseball standouts) are there, along with some guys I played Legion ball with. So I knew a lot of guys there and it just felt like home when I visited there."
And while he's excited to be a part of Eagles' baseball, Edmondson has one little thing to finish up before he heads to Walnut Ridge to join Head Coach John Katrosh's squad -- his senior year on the diamond for the Rebels.
"Hopefully, I can be pretty successful (at WBC). But I've got one more year of high school ball left and we've got eight starters coming back," said Edmondson. "So, we're ready to go and hopefully we can make a run at state."
Expectations echoed by Hill.
"We've got eight returning starters and most of them are seniors, so we're senior-laden this year," said Hill. "And in baseball, that really works to your favor. And Payton is going to have to bear a heavy load for us this year on the mound and in the field. He's going to be a leader, but he's got a solid supporting cast, so he won't have to do it all by himself. But Payton's been a three-year starter for us -- he started as a freshman, which is hard to do in high school baseball -- and he's been a solid force for us and we're expecting great things from him again this year."