Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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College-bound and owner of two state championships in baseball, Minster’s Adam Niemeyer prepares for the next step, the next challenge, and hopefully more success as a Buckeye.

Adam Niemeyer can’t wait to see what comes next.

And who can blame him?  His four years as a prep athlete at Minster High School was the proverbial dream-come-true…about as good as it gets.

A natural in three sports, he quarterbacked the Wildcats’ football team back to respectability in the awesomely competitive Midwest Athletic Conference (MAC).  After years of mediocrity the ‘Cats won 17 games in Niemeyer’s junior and senior seasons.

In a town with a considerable basketball legacy, the 6’3, 195 pound Niemeyer averaged double figures during that same period, first team All-MAC his junior year, and one regional final appearance for his effort.

But it was in baseball, for Coach Mike Wiss, where his combination of talents became most recognizably manifest.  He played no fewer than three positions…third base, first base, and he pitched.  For much of his junior season he hovered around the .500 mark as a hitter,  he hit with power, and he anchored a versatile and talented pitching staff.  In terms of recognition:  MAC Player of The Year his junior and senior year…1st Team All-State as a pitcher his junior and senior year…Division IV Player of The Year his senior year.  How do you punctuate such a statement of accomplishment?  Division IV titles, of course, back-to-back, in 2010 and 2011!

“It was so good (his high school years) I almost wish I could go back and do it again,”  he said earlier this week, watching as the future of Minster baseball honed its skills in an Acme game with neighboring Wapakoneta.  “It’s been a great time.  The things we accomplished were pretty special, not only in baseball, but in football and basketball, too.  I had great teammates and I’ll move on with a lot of great memories.

“The best thing about it was the camaraderie I had with the guys, not just in baseball, but in football and basketball, too.  I played with some real characters.  Rob Wente, Doug Huber, Devon Poeppelman…guys who made it fun.  You need guys like that to keep things loose, and that’s an important part of winning a championship.”

The only nightmare in this dream?  The expected baseball “three-peat” never happened.  With a #1-state ranking, and Minster recognized by most as far and away the best Division IV baseball team in the state this past spring, Convoy Crestview upended Niemeyer’s Wildcats in the Divisional Finals.  No contest.

“They deserved it,”  says Niemeyer, matter-of-factly.  “Crestview got hot at the right time.  They hit and they had a pitcher that had a great game against us.  They came out and jumped on us early and kept adding on.  We always think we’re in a game, that we can chip away at a deficit,  but it wasn’t our day.  At first it was disappointing, but after a few days I started to  appreciate more going to state and winning the two titles back-to-back.  You tend to take it for granted when it happens and it made me realize that it’s not that easy.  Baseball’s a crazy sport that way.  Anything can happen.  All it takes is one hot pitcher and one bad day.”

Time, they say, waits for no one.  One door closes as another opens.  Adam Niemeyer has crossed the threshold.  Playing this summer for the Dayton Classics, his every pitch and every at bat comes with the anticipation of becoming an Ohio State Buckeye in the fall.  Recruited for the past two years by Ohio State coach Greg Beals,  Niemeyer made it official in May with his commitment to become a Buckeye.

“Adam’s a great three-sport athlete,”  said Beals upon his signing.  “And, he’s a high school quarterback and I think that says something about his ability to compete.  We’re excited about his development as a pitcher for us.”

“He’s a guy you trust to compete and keep you in a ball game,”  says his high school coach, Mike Wiss.  “He can throw 85 and be effective.  But if he needs to he can crank it up and be dominant.  But here’s what I can tell you about Adam and our seniors.  When his class is graduated there’s going to be a new group of young kids in Minster who play baseball because of his example.  On a given day there may be twenty grade schoolers come to a game to see what Wildcat baseball is all about.”

Niemeyer is more than ready for the challenge of big time college baseball.  He’s as close to a “natural” as anything that’s ever come out of Minster playing baseball.  His manner reminds you a little of Roy Hobbs in the movie…the quiet way he goes about his business on the mound or at the plate.  He has a knack for the dramatic…he delivers.  He has the look, the Redford smile.  Having overcome arm issues as a junior, he’s bounced back with increasing confidence and velocity.  His pedigree as a competitor portends good things at the next level.

“I’m playing against good competition this summer, Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis…a lot of guys who’ll be playing college baseball next year or they’re playing in college already.

“I’m anxious to get to Ohio state and concentrate on baseball. I’d like to see what I can become.”

“I’m anxious to get to Ohio State and concentrate on baseball year-round.  I really bonded with the coaches there when they recruited me and I think it’s a program on the rise.  Big Ten baseball, as a whole, is on the rise when you consider what Indiana did this year by making it to the College World Series.  So I’m anticipating getting there and truly working on baseball and seeing what I can become.

“I know their goal at Ohio State is to win, to get to Omaha.   I know that their record has steadily gotten better since Coach Beals took over and they’re on track to get there.  I know they’ve had a good recruiting class again this year, a couple of guys from Indiana and Kentucky, and some guys that I’ve played against in tournaments in the past.”

But there is a breaking-in period for a lot of high school phenoms at the next level…better talent, tougher competition, and a crucible of expectation.  Resume’ in hand, can Adam Niemeyer compete right out of the chute?

“I think I can.  My fastball’s been gaining velocity.  I hit 91 on the gun last week.  I’m starting to locate my off-speed pitches well so I think I have a shot to go in there and compete for some time.  I’d like to hit when I get there, to see what I can do.”

He’d like to see…”what he can become”.

And for the sake of every coach’s concern over recruits with past arm injuries, he’s confident in being 100% healthy.

“I had a UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) sprain my junior season.  I didn’t throw much for the rest of that spring and summer and then started a strengthening program before football.  I felt fine then during football season, it’s been fine all this spring, and it feels great now.”

“They gave me a throwing and lifting program at the Ohio State winter camp last year and I’ve been using that to get ready.  When I get there in the fall I’m sure we’ll get into a lot more detail.  Doing their strength training program year-round I’m sure I’ll put on another 20 pounds.  I’ll be bigger and stronger.”

Baseball-wise Adam Niemeyer prepares for college with competitive anticipation.  But there’s more.  He graduated 6th in his class this spring with a 3.9 GPA.  He plans on studying business at Ohio State in pursuit of an undergraduate degree.  And then…the possibility of following in his father Bryan’s footsteps as an attorney.  He speaks of the possibility of going to law school.

Few “naturals” ever had it so good…a great high school career, the memories, the friendships, and those two state titles.  Good enough for many, Adam Niemeyer hopes it’s just the beginning.  A door closes, a door opens.

So goes his summer of anticipation!

“Adam’s a fine three-sport athlete and a high school quarterback. I think that says something about his competitiveness.” – Ohio State Coach Greg Beals

 

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