MLB Prospect Slade Caldwell named Gatorade Player of the Year for second consecutive season

For the second straight season, Valley View outfielder Slade Caldwell has been named the Arkansas
Gatorade Player of the Year.

The Gatorade Player of the Year recognizes excellence on and off the field. Caldwell’s on-field performance is well-known, but the accolades he’s achieved off the field are even better. He maintained a 3.96 GPA in the classroom and was a member of the National Honor Society. In the little spare time he had, Caldwell volunteered locally for the Special Olympics, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society.

Caldwell, an Ole Miss signee, began the 2024 season without getting very many opportunities to hit as teams would pitch around him frequently. That changed at the Robinson Invitational Tournament during spring break as he belted home runs against Ray-Pec (Mo.) and Little Rock Catholic. Caldwell hit .485 this season with 49 walks compared to only 10 strikeouts. He stole 51 bases and set the state record with 171 steals in a career. Caldwell’s biggest accomplishment was finishing as a state champion after coming close the past two seasons.

Caldwell set a state record with 171 stolen bases in his career.
(Photo by Jhude Dizon/Arkansas PBS)

Blazers Coach Josh Allison stated before the championship game: “Slade is the X-factor. At the end of the day, we have Slade and they don’t.”

While he didn’t get a hit in the title game, Caldwell drew three walks and scored the first two runs of the contest.

The Gatorade State Player of the Year award was established in 1985 to recognize the nation’s most outstanding high school student athletes for their athletic excellence, academic achievements and exemplary character. Past winners in Arkansas include Cooper Dossett (Springdale Har-Ber), Jackson Wells (Rogers), Cayden Wallace (Greenbrier), Blake Adams (Springdale Har-Ber), Jaden Hill (Ashdown) and Casey Martin (Lonoke). Caldwell is the first two-time winner of the award since Bryant’s Travis Wood won in 2004-2005. Coincidentally, Wood was drafted in the second round of the MLB Draft in 2005 and Caldwell could end up being selected even higher in this July’s draft as he has been heavily projected as a first round selection.

(Cover photo by Leslie Caldwell)