Monday, April 20, 2009
In the 9-Hole with Michael Stephens
Photo Courtesy Jim Davidson of the-OZone.net
Its not often that the Ohio State baseball program dips into the JUCO ranks bringing talent to Columbus that provides and instant impact and helps carry the team. Anyone who has watched or followed the Bucks this season knows that has certainly changed, and for the better.
After Junior Centerfielder J.B. Shuck was drafted in the 6th round last season by the Houston Astros leaving a void in the outfield, Coach Todd and staff was able to bring aboard JUCO All-American Junior Michael Stephens from Fullerton (Cali.) College to fill the need.
Stephens is showing everyone Todd made a wise selection and has been an anchor in the Scarlet and Gray line-up from day one. The Buckeye Nine caught up with Stephens and stuck him in the 9-Hole, giving him 9 questions to discuss his time as a Buckeye.
B9: Coming from California hows the weather here in the Midwest?
MS: Ha, Well... it's definitely not like Southern California that's for sure! The weather's more chilly here and very inconsistent.
B9: Obviously the weather wasn't a major reason, just how did you end up in the Scarlet & Gray, what attracted you most to the university and baseball program?
MS: I honestly can say that I ended up here in Columbus on a simple phone call from the staff. And the number one thing that attracted me here is the facilities. Everything here is done first class; you just cannot find that at many of the other programs in the nation.
B9: A lot has been discussed about the team's chemistry this year, being its your first around the guys did it take long to fit in? how do you think the team cohesiveness is?
MS: The team chemistry is awesome this year. Everyone gels and understands what our goals are for the year in order to secure a Big Ten championship. I felt very much at home stepping into the locker room and meeting everyone from day one.
B9: You wear #24, any special reason? Or was it just what was left and the new guy got stuck with it?
MS: I pretty much got stuck with 24 this year, but I've heard some good things about other players wearing it before me. So, I'm not too disappointed with the decision.
B9: Has the transition from JUCO to DI baseball been smooth for you? is it what you expected?
MS: The transition has been a pretty smooth one. I just had to adapt to the different pitching styles and aggressiveness out here compared to California JC ball. The pitching is pretty close to being the same as the Orange Empire Conference, but the depth in the later innings is much more competitive at the D1 level.
B9: What personal goals did you set for yourself coming into the year? Are you on pace to reach them?
MS: When it came to goals, I didn't set any for myself, just two big ones. Win a Big Ten title and win a National Championship. From day one, I have put up a picture of Omaha in my locker to remind me everyday what i go out and play for; it gives me that extra push on my slower days.
B9: You're tied for the team lead in Home Runs at 7 with Dan Burkhart who hits in clean-up right behind you, any friendly competition there to see who can out do the other?
MS: Lol, Yeah we have our moments together. I hear from the guys, that when someone gets close (or as Dan's sake) tied with me in HR's, a little bit of "shoot when are you gonna step up and drop some bombs." LOL, it makes me laugh and smile, but between Dan and I, I think we've created a little rivalry on who will come on top of the HR race on the team.
B9: What has been your favorite moment as a Buckeye?
MS: So far, favorite moment has been going out on the 50 yd. line in the Shoe for athletes appreciation day. What an awesome experience.
B9: Lastly, California or Ohio girls?
MS:Hahahaha, this is a good one... Well, I've met a lot of amazing people out here, and since the weather is getting nicer, there are many more girls coming out of hibernation, but I'm going to have to say the Cali girls hold it down for this question for sure!!!
As you can tell Stephens has had no problems fitting in with the team and becoming a part of the Ohio State baseball program. Stephens has done an incredible job providing the team with power, a solid glove in the field, and speed on the bases. Stephens play is a big reason why the Bucks sit in first midway through the Big Ten season.
The Buckeye Nine thanks Stephens for his team, and we're glad he's apart of the program, and wishes him success finishing the season.