Each year, Gatorade awards the best of the best in high school athletics nationwide through their Gatorade Player of the Year awards program. Dylan Lesko, a right-handed pitcher and infielder for the Buford High School varsity baseball team was awarded the 2020-21 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year award in a press conference on Wednesday, July 7, 2021.
Lesko learned he won the award just before he was whisked away for multiple virtual press conferences, one of which included New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor. Lindor congratulated Lesko and Lesko said that it was a huge honor to be able to talk with a player of Lindor’s caliber.
This award is a historic moment not only for the city of Buford and the Buford City School district but for the Gatorade Player of the Year program as well. Lesko is the first-ever winner that was not a senior during the year they won their award.
To win this award, Lesko had to top an impressive group of state winners of the Player of the Year award. Forty-six of the state winners have signed Letters of Intent or have verbally committed to play baseball at Division I colleges and universities. This elite group of baseball players includes 22 with GPAs of 3.75 or higher and 18 are expected to be selected in the early rounds of the 2021 MLB Draft.
A national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists selected Lesko out of a group of more than 500,000 high school baseball players based on the caliber of his athletic abilities, his outstanding academic performance and the kind of person Lesko is on and off the field.
Lesko joins an elite group of players who have won this award. Past winners of the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year award have combined for four MLB MVP awards, 42 All-Star appearances and 27 MLB first-round draft picks. Notable past winners include Alex Rodriguez, Clayton Kershaw, Gary Sheffield and Lance McCullers Jr.
During Lesko’s junior season, the six-foot-three, 197-pound Vanderbilt commit was 11-0 on the mound with a 0.35 ERA and he struck out 112 batters in 60 innings. The Wolves went on to complete their season with a 32-2 record and into the second round of the GHSA Class AAAAAA state playoffs Batters who went up against Lesko were held to a .126 batting average and a 0.68 WHIP.
On the offensive side of the game, Lesko also shines with a 0.417 batting average, 25 RBIs and an OPS of 1.054.
Winning the award, especially in light of all of the amazing players that came before him, was a huge honor Lesko said after being presented with the trophy. He stated that it was extra special to get to share the moment with his family and friends. His sister, Kaitlyn, a college lacrosse player presented the impressive trophy to her younger brother as the two siblings are extremely close, according to Lesko’s mother, Becky Lesko.
In fall 2022, Lesko will play baseball for Vanderbilt University under head coach Tim Corbin. However, as the No. 2 prospect in the nation for the Class of 2022 according to rankings by Perfect Game and PrepBaseballReport, Lesko is expected to be drafted in the early rounds of the MLB Draft after graduating from Buford High School.
His parents have been very supportive of Lesko throughout his athletic career. They remain committed to allowing Lesko to decide what his future holds, whether he attends Vanderbilt as currently planned or goes ahead to the MLB.
“Winning the Gatorade Player of the Year award is an enormous accomplishment, as it’s reserved for the best and brightest high school student-athletes,” said Gatorade Senior Vice President and General Manager Brett O’Brien. “We strongly believe in the lifelong benefits of playing high school sports and look forward to seeing what Dylan Lesko will accomplish in the future.”
The first Gatorade Player of the Year awards took place in 1985 and since that time, they have remained committed to recognizing the nation’s most elite student-athletes in 12 different high school sports. The winners are selected based on their “athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character.”