By Kevin Wilson
For a guy who’s 6-foot-2, 216 pounds, Portales senior Kevin Cheatham has been pretty easy to lose sight of, even as the cleanup hitter for a Rams that has scored 86 runs in seven games leading up to the Fighting Colt Invitational this weekend in Silver.
The right fielder has no problem being in the background this season, and instead worries about back spasms that have limited his productivity.
“It affects me a lot, but it’s not going to keep me from playing,” Cheatham said. “Individually, I don’t care. I just want to win. If I can go 1-for-4 to win the game instead of 4-for-4 and lose the game, I’ll do that.”
It’s a team-first attitude, along with a powerful swing, that has Cheatham batting in the No. 4 spot instead of left-handers Seth Clabaugh and Tyler Rutherford.
“Cheatham’s just more of a power hitter,” Portales coach Greg Hill said. “If he was healthy, he’d probably have a few more home runs than he does. I think they all fit in well where they’re at.”
Where the Rams are at right now is 6-1, one victory away from matching last season’s win total. Cheatham and the Rams face El Paso Cathedral in a 1 p.m. matchup to start the three-day tournament.
“(A record of) 6-1 is always good,” Cheatham said. “I think we’ve improved a lot from last year … a lot from last year. We’re communicating a lot better and that helps win games.”
Cheatham is in his second season on the Ram varsity after his family moved back to Portales from Madison, Ind. He used to be like most of his teammates, playing football his freshman year at Madison. After breaking his foot in three places during that football season, Cheatham decided it was time to change his thinking.
“When you play for so long, it gets boring,” Cheatham said. “It wasn’t that I didn’t want to play, but I always figured I’d do one sport and hopefully it would get me into college.
“I just need to be playing well and hope somebody notices me.”
Hill has believed all season that Cheatham could do just that if he plays up to his potential.
“He has the talent to play,” Hill said. “He’s a prototype right fielder. He’s got good power, a good arm. He’s above average, speedwise.”
Hill joked that the right-hander has come a long way from being a pull hitter who “couldn’t hit south of the left-field line” and adds that he’s taken on a leadership role as well.
Cheatham hopes the best is yet to come, for the Rams and for himself.
“I think I’d be playing better if I was healthy, and I think I’d be able to knock in more runs,” he said. “But I’m not one to use that as an excuse. I’ve just got to work a little harder.”