C.J. Dean was a standout for the Centennial baseball team in 2019 and is hoping to build off that season next year.
Dean, a junior shortstop and pitcher, batted .480 and earned first-team all-league and all-district honors as a sophomore while helping to lead the Stars to an 11-1 league record and a share of the City League-North Division title with Whetstone.
The son of Centennial softball coach Malik Dean, C.J. Dean was hoping to parlay his success last year into similar results this spring before the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
But Dean, who also plays center field for Bo Jackson's Elite Sports, intends to pick up where he left off when he begins his senior season in 2021.
"My goals for next season are to keep improving and try to show that Centennial can compete with these OCC schools," he said. "I want to keep getting better, make my team better, come home with a City championship, beat Whetstone and go further into the (Division II district) tournament."
Despite the cancellation of the spring season and the uncertainty surrounding summer baseball, Dean said he has continued to train and stay in shape at home by working on his skills, running sprints and practicing yoga to improve his flexibility.
"Something that pushes me is I know that there's someone out there that's trying to work toward the same goal that I am," he said. "Just knowing I need to get up and get better every day, and that really pushes me that I need to keep working."
Despite hitting well last season, Dean said his approach at the plate is an area he would like to continue to improve, particularly his ability against left-handed pitching.
"That's something I really want to focus on and get better over this offseason, especially over the summer," he said.
Dean also is a wide receiver and defensive back for the Centennial football team, which went 9-2, won the City-North title and reached the Division III, Region 11 playoffs for the first time before losing to Jackson 70-28 in the first round. Against Jackson, Dean had four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.
While his preferred sport is baseball, Dean said playing football has helped him become a better baseball player.
"The conditioning and strength and mental toughness needed to play football is over the top," he said. "Understanding football increases your mental capacity. And also with baseball, there's not a lot of long-distance sprinting. But football, especially playing wide receiver, sprinting off the line is a lot like sprinting from first to second, or from playing center field, sprinting to left field or right field."
Dean said his sister, Alyssa, a 2016 Centennial graduate who was a redshirt sophomore guard on the Walsh women's basketball team this past winter, was a major inspiration for him growing up. Alyssa committed to Memphis out of high school before transferring to Bowling Green and then Walsh.
"Her committing and me seeing her develop as a player really inspired me as far as pushing myself," Dean said. "I got to see the recruiting process firsthand, I got to go on visits with her. I got to understand from an early age what it was like to go see colleges, what was expected."
Dean's father also has had a major influence on him.
"He's been teaching me (baseball) since I was a kid, showing me the ropes," said Dean, whose goal is to play Division I college baseball and to study sports medicine and become a physical therapist. "He's the first person I think of when I think of baseball. He's just always been there for me when it comes to it, helping me as much as he can."
Coach Pat Nance expects Dean to pick up where he left off his sophomore year when baseball returns in 2021.
"I am confident that next year (Dean) will be back and better than ever," Nance said. "He is a guy that will carry the team and never complain. He just wants the team to be successful and he knows that he has to be successful in all phases of his game in order to make that happen."