Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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If you wondering why so much attention to college baseball on this website, read, consider, and appreciate what used to be…and the way it is now.

For most of the past month the mailbox has had regular submissions from PPM readers curious over why so much to do about Ohio State and University of Dayton baseball.

“Seriously,”  said one.  “Why would you pick baseball to write about instead of going to the Fiesta Bowl?”  The reference, of course, was to Ohio State football.

The answer:  Everyone in Buckeye Nation was at the Fiesta Bowl writing about it.  What’s left to say?  And what’s to say in the first place about Ohio State football that’s actually fresh, unscripted, and unpredictable?

By comparison, Ohio State baseball players are a refreshing change of pace…available, affable, and eager to share their experience.  And I’ve said more than once that the next national title to be won at Ohio State, outside of football, will be by Greg Beals’ baseball program.

“Seriously?” you ask.

Uh…yeah.  Because when you look at the growing strength of baseball in the Big Ten Conference…at teams like Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Michigan, and Ohio State…that are regularly qualifying for the NCAA regional tournaments, and competing nationally, it isn’t that tough to figure out.

“They can’t compete with the teams from the SEC,”  you say.  “Those teams from the warm states have all the advantages.

Except, go back and look at teams that have won the NCAA baseball titles over the years.  Teams with pitchers…and talent…are the teams that win, irrespective of temperature and geography.  Look at last year’s major league draft and see that the Minnesota Twins took Illinois relief pitcher Tyler Jay with their #1 pick.  Boston took Ohio State starting pitcher Travis Lakins with their #4 pick.

And consider that the Buckeyes have three former players on major league rosters this opening week of the big league season…Cory Luebke (Pittsburgh), J.B. Shuck (White Sox), and Eric Fryer (Cardinals).

But there’s other reasons for writing more about college baseball, proportionate to football and basketball.  I like to call it…Flyers and Buckeyes of a different season!

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*  The average fan cannot take their family to an Ohio State football game.  Why?  Costs too much, and you can’t get tickets, anyway.  Didn’t used to be that way, but it is now.  On the other hand, go to an Ohio State baseball game and you get great box seats for $10…and you get treated like royalty.  If you want, your kids can even go stand on the field with position players for the national anthem…or run the bases after the game.  Try doing that when they play Michigan in football.

*  Even better, the average fan can go to a Dayton baseball game for even less, as opposed to UD basketball.  I’m not sure they charge at all.  Just park and walk in.  Try doing that at UD Arena…or a Dragons game!  And that’s no knock on basketball, because it pays the bills for most of the other UD sports.

*  The average high school football player, on the average high school roster, has absolutely no chance to walk on at Ohio State and be a part of the football team.  Likewise, the starting point guard at Ft. Loramie probably isn’t going to walk into Archie Miller’s office at UD and declare himself available, ready, and able.  At least, not with a laugh, and then a call to security.

But we write college baseball, in part, to give area kids an insight into these programs…that there really is opportunity in college baseball for many high school players with at least two of the five skills in baseball to walk on and make a roster.

Trust it, many collegiate programs in Ohio, particularly in Division II and III, are crying for athletes.  And if you can do at least two of these five baseball skills…run, throw, field, hit, or hit with power…you will get serious consideration.

How do I know?  Because once upon a time I did walk on at Ohio State, armed with an 85-mile-per-hour fastball, proved that I could throw strikes and get people out, made the team, and lettered for each of the next four years.  And nothing’s changed.  At the University of Dayton they’re looking for talent at all nine positions on the field, as evidenced by their 7 and 17 record as of last week.

And I can tell you this.  College coaches around the state are reading Press Pros to familiarize themselves with the names of area talents in the conferences we cover, starting this week.  Doesn’t matter where you play…Ft. Loramie, Versailles, Coldwater, Troy, Tipp, St. Henry, or Miami East.  If you can play, and they read about you, they’re going to make a note and check you again someplace along the way.

Conversely, it’s important that area high school players read about the Flyers and the Buckeyes on Press Pros.  Even better, get in the car and go see them play on a Sunday, in Dayton or in Columbus.  Go see for yourself.

See that they wear their pants just like you do.

Compare your relative skills to what you see.

Compare areas in which you need to improve.

Actually go down to the field and talk to coaches and players, and ask them.  They’ll tell you that the majority of them are “walk-ons”, who believed they had a chance to play if they tried…and did it.

Sonny_inset0211Or, go to a Wittenberg game, Ohio Northern, Sinclair, Cedarville, or Otterbein.  It’s all the same.  College baseball needs players and it doesn’t have the recruiting budget available to football and basketball.  They may never know about you…if you don’t introduce yourself.

There’s more, but in capsule I’ve just listed the best reasons for writing more about college baseball and less about college football on Press Pros…and with a couple of important guarantees.

1)  I guarantee that no one else is going to take the time to share what we just shared.  Actually, few papers even write about college baseball.  The Columbus Dispatch hasn’t been to an Ohio State home game all season.

And 2)  If you really want to play, and take the time to make an acquaintance with a college coach, they WILL pay attention to you and take you seriously if you tell them you can play.  Then…it’s up to you to prove that you really can.

At the very least, you can run the bases after the game.

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