Thursday, March 27, 2008

Buckeye Nine Q&A with J.B. Shuck

Is there anything J.B. Shuck can’t do? The Galion, Ohio native is the Buckeyes’ do-everything player. When he’s not chasing a ball in the gap, he’s striking out the opposition. He’s not too shabby at the plate either and boasts a .431 batting average (sixth in the Big Ten) in 15 games this season. He’s tied for the team lead with 25 hits, including three doubles and a triple. He’s also driven in nine runs and has scored a team-most 18 times.

Shuck’s three pitching victories lead the team. He’s lost just once in his four starts this season and has a 4.09 ERA. His 22.0 innings are the most on the team and his 21 strikeouts are two off the pace of senior Dan DeLucia. What does stand out are his 14 walks and of the 15 hits he has allowed eight have been for extra bases, yet he’s limiting opposing batters to a .192 average.

The former Galion High School Tiger, who has collected baseball cards almost as long as he can remember, says he is equally comfortable in the outfield, at the plate and on the mound. That is because he has worked hard. He has a tough task replacing Matt Angle in centerfield, but while he admits he doesn’t have Angle’s speed, he isn’t sure where his quick shoes rank on this year’s squad. He spent last summer playing for Cotuit in the Cape Cod League, but spent most of his time on the hill, putting together a 3-2 record to go with a 3.30 ERA.

He has already equaled that win total and no doubt would like to surpass the eight wins he accumulated his freshman season, but he is putting individual goals on the backburner in helping the Buckeyes win their first Big Ten regular-season championship since 2001.

B9: What do you attribute your success at the plate this season?
“I worked very hard in the off season, and faced very good pitchers before the season. Our pitchers threw very well in the offseason which helped me get ready when we actually got started.”

B9: Talk about taking over in centerfield for Matt Angle.
“He left some very tough shoes to fill. Matt could catch anything that was hit anywhere close to centerfield, and I am doing my best to do the same thing. I'm not nearly as fast as him so it is pretty hard to do.”

B9: What has been the hardest part about playing centerfield?
JB: “The hardest part for me has just been getting back out there and doing it again. I have not played center since high school and the balls fly a lot different than they do in the corner outfield spots.”

B9: Are you the fastest guy on the team?
JB: “I am not sure if I am the fastest guy or not. No one will race me to find out.”

B9: Who would be in contention?
JB: “We have some pretty fast guys this year, so there would be some good races to find out who is. Tony Kennedy, Brian DeLucia, Chris Griffin, Gus Miller, and I would be a very good race.”

B9: What are the challenges of being a utility player?
JB: “The biggest challenge is practicing both positions and trying to hit during practice. I have really had to work hard to throw a bullpen early in practice, then change my shoes and go catch fly balls. It has been tough but the coaches have really worked hard to make sure I get work at both things.”

B9: Which do you enjoy more and why, batting/fielding or pitching?
JB: “I enjoy doing both the same. I have had success at both so I still like doing them. The best part about hitting is when you have a bad game, you get to get right back at it the next day, as for pitching you have to wait a whole week. The best part about pitching is you are in control of the entire game. I really like having the pressure of that on me when I am throwing.”

B9: Talk about how you think the season is going so far.
JB: “The season is going alright for us this year. We have had some very good wins, but we have also had leads in almost every game and have not been able to close them out. I would have liked to see us win a few more of those games, but I am pleased with how the guys are playing and handling the pressure.”

B9: What should we expect from this team the rest of the way?
JB: “You should expect a lot of big things. We have really started playing as a team, and we are having a lot of guys step up and do a very good job. If we continue to work hard we are going to make a good run at the Big Ten championship and we will go far in the tournament.”

B9: Talk about your experience in the Cape Cod League last summer? How were you used?
“I had a very good experience in the Cape last summer. I was used mainly as a pitcher, but got a few at bats. I had good success on the mound, and learned a lot from all of the other players. I believe that I became a much better pitcher, mentally and physically because of the Cape.”

B9: What is your most treasured baseball card?
JB: “I have two cards that are my favorite. One is just a regular Joe Carter, and it was the first card I ever received. The other card that I treasure is a Kenny Lofton rookie card. He is my favorite player so I really like that card. I have many more cards that are worth a lot more money than those, but those are my favorite.”

B9: When did you start collecting baseball cards and how did you get into it?
JB: “I started collecting them when I was about 4 years old. I started collecting them because my grandfather bought me a pack of them and I thought they were really cool. So every time we would go to the store he would buy me a pack, and I just continued buying them ever since.”

Photo courtesy of Bill Wells.

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