Thursday, August 13, 2009

Buckeye 9 Interview with OF Zach Hurley

Photo courtesy Jim Davidson

Imagine waking up one day and realizing you have the ability to play baseball for a living and have been offered thousands of dollars to do so. Pretty sweet dream huh?

The dream became a reality for Zach Hurley this past June as the Florida Marlins selected the Springboro, Ohio native in the 45th round of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft.

After a 2008 summer which saw the five-tool athlete be selected as the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League's top prospect, as well as compiling a summer that saw him land PGCrosschecker's top 20 performances of the summer, Hurley had a tidal wave of momentum going into the fall.

Unfortunately an injury to his throwing shoulder limited Hurley's ability to fine tune his game in the Autumn, and kept him from being 100% this past spring further rockerting up draft boards.

You probably had a hard time telling Hurley was 100%. In 60 games, only taking a day off once, Hurley hit .346 his 89 hits lead the team as did his six triples. The 12 doubles and six home runs powered Hurley to 53 RBI and a .510 slugging percentage. The .421 on-base percentage Hurley posted worked quite well for the leadoff hitter, allowing him to steal 14 bases being an all around force for Bob Todd and the Buckeyes. Oh and he only committed one error in the field.

After doing his part to lead Ohio State to their first Big Ten Championship since 2001, Hurley woke up on June 12th the day after the Marlins obtained his rights with a decision to make.

Return to school or go pro? As the deadline approaches unsigned draft selections have until Monday the 17th at 11:59 PM to sign their professional contract. The Buckeye Nine catches up with Hurley to get his decision.

B9: First off initial thoughts on being drafted?

ZH: Highest honor you could get as a baseball player...I've been asked this question quite a few times this summer and my response is always the same.

Having an organization pick you as one of their draft picks out of the thousands of college baseball players across the country is just a true honor. It is a goal every college baseball player has including myself and to think that a team considers you good enough to play professionally is awesome. I don't think there is a better compliment a player could receive.

B9: What has went into your decision of whether to leave or return? Is it an individual decision or did you look to your family for advice? What impact did discussing all options with the Marlins and OSU coaches have? And ultimately what is your decision?

ZH: Well first of all my family is always and will always take priority in my life. They were a huge impact on my decision and there were many long talks over the course of the couple weeks that went into the decision following the draft.

We listed out all the positives and negatives to leaving or staying and at the end of the day I had to put a dollar figure on what I felt my remaining time at OSU was worth. What I was willing to leave for and what the Marlins were willing to offer just didn't match up, which at the end of the day doesn't disappoint me at all.

I'm a true believer in everything happens for a reason and that God has a plan for me. I've always wanted to play professionally and I still do however there's not a doubt in my mind that coming back to OSU was the right decision for me to make and I couldn't be happier.

I've talked to a lot of people including the coaches and we all agreed that coming back for my senior year was the right thing to do. The thought of being able to play for The Ohio State University for my senior year and all the memories and good times I'm going to share and have with the guys on the team is absolutely priceless to me.

I can't wait to join up with my teammates here soon for fall ball and set out on an unbelievable 2010 season.

B9: Quite a few publications thought very highly of you and your abilities going into 2009 coming off of a summer that saw you selected as the top prospect in the GLSCL in 2008. Though you were drafted and you've said it is an honor to be selected, were you surprised at all you did not get selected until the 45th round? Did you hear any reasons on why it ended the way it did?

ZH: You know to be honest I was a little surprised. I've put in tons of hard work into my career and I felt that I had the ability to play with the best. That's just the way I've always been.

I'm never going to be the fastest guy or throw the hardest or hit the furthest homeruns but that is ok with me. I feel like I have the ability to play with the best and that is the way my mindset has always been.

With that in mind, obviously I was hoping to be taken a lot earlier than the 45th round. I was hoping to get an opportunity a lot earlier than that. I'm not sure why I didn't get drafted before the 45th round and to be honest I'm not sure I'll ever know why but I didn't ponder on those thoughts for too long. I just put all that in the back of my mind and have just used it and will continue to use it as motivation.

B9: In using that as motivation in going forward, what have you been doing this summer? Any baseball related activities?

ZH: This summer I've taken a step away from the playing field by deciding to not partake in summer ball. I've been able to work and pour all of my focus into my body and driving it into the ground daily.

I've been able to hit the weights hard along with doing yoga and lots of conditioning... things I haven't been able to focus on since my time last year was spent rehabbing my shoulder for the start of the season. I've also been able to break down my game and focus on some key elements were I need improvement.

B9: Where are the areas and elements of your game you were not pleased with and have worked at and focused on this summer?

ZH: I definitely needed to get my arm back. I was 100% during the season health wise as far as my shoulder was concerned but as far as arm strength from the outfield it wasn't up to my standards that was a biggie for me this summer.

The other was more power at the plate. I'm a pretty big kid and really used the summer to break down parts of my swing so I can get the full benefit of my size and strength to drive the ball further. Arm strength and power were definitely the two big areas of focus for me this summer.

B9: There isn’t a lot to nitpick with your abilities to find flaws, especially coming off of a 2009 season that was a career year for you, anchoring the Bucks lineup as the leadoff hitter. Did you have the season you felt you were capable of?

ZH: At the end of the day I was happy with the season that I had in 2009 .Sure there were definitely some goals of mine I didn't reach, I would of liked to have hit for a better average but there were also things I did well so I was pleased with how the year went.

You know, I always think there is room for improvement and I always set the bar extremely high, I'm always going to think I'm capable of more so with that said I am happy with the 2009 season that I had but I'm going to be looking for bigger and better things in 2010 especially since it is my last year at OSU.

B9: Gearing towards 2010 you as stated took a step away from baseball this summer. After turning down the professional contract and rumored to be in the Cape this summer, what went into the decision to stay away from playing summer ball focusing on working out was it the arm?

ZH: Well I definitely wanted to play professionally and if it didn't work out I wanted to play in the Cape, that's where the best in the country played so I wanted an opportunity to go up against the best.

However, none of those situations worked themselves out so I elected to drop baseball for the summer and solely focus like I said before on my strength, flexibility, and conditioning as well as work on all the things in my game that need improvement. That way it would give me the best shot at being the most complete baseball player I can possibly be with no flaws.

I felt like improving on these areas as well as my body would benefit me much more than continuing play for another couple months. Also, since my shoulder surgery last September I never really had the time to get myself where I like to be physically and mentally before the start of the season. It was rehab every single day, I missed out on a lot of things especially fall ball and working out with the guys. My last day of rehab was the day before the first game of the year down in Florida against Notre Dame.

B9: As you mention you missed fall ball last year, as fall ball is now is about a month away. Did it set you back any not being able to participate in last Autumn's practices?

ZH: You know I don't think it set me back on a playing level as much as it did a personal level.

What I mean by that is considering my age and the amount of time and AB's that I've had, missing fall ball wasn't going to affect me as much as it would of I was only a freshman or sophomore because I have seen the college pitching and I've been in those clutch situations you encounter and experience during the fall.

The set back in my opinion that I faced was with the guys especially the new guys. I didn't get the opportunity to step up and establish myself with them as far as a leadership role and as a guy they could rely on to get the job done.

B9: After a healthy fall is under your belt, do you have any personal goals for 2010?

ZH: From a personal standpoint my main goal for the 2010 season is to have fun. I'm not going to try and hit .400, blast 20 home runs, etc. I'm just going to have fun. This is my senior year, the last time I will be around all the guys on the team so I'm going to enjoy it and have fun with it... Everything else will take care of itself.

B9: What do you expect the teams attitude and focus to be on in 2010 coming off of a Big Ten Championship and NCAA Regional?

ZH: I think the confidence among the team will definitely be there. We are the champs of the Big Ten, regional contenders, however that was the past and this is the now.

What happened last year was great but it wasn't good enough. With the talent this team has coming back and coming in our eyes need to be set further than winning a Big Ten Championship. We worked harder than ever last year and where did that get us? A thirty-plus deficit to a Florida State team and an embarrassing chunk of time on SportsCenter.

On the other hand that was a great season when you look back at it. The champs of our conference, a 40+ win season. But to make up for the way it ended we are going to need to work 3x harder as a team than we did last year. And we will.

B9: 2010 will be a success in your eyes if...

ZH: 2010 will be a success...If as a team we put in the total dedication from top to bottom...every guy on our roster needs to put every ounce of what they have to the limit every single day, day in and day out, no exceptions. We are only as good as our weakest link and if we work harder than ever at this time next year we will have no regrets.

The Buckeye 9 thanks Hurley for taking the time to sit down and fill us in on his decision as we look forward to seeing Zach back in the Scarlet & Gray.

1 comment:

Zak Blom said...

Zach has been a class act as long as I have known him, and clearly that has not changed. The Florida organization missed an opportunity, and that is Buckeye Nation's gain. I look forward to seeing what he can do in the 2010 season. Go Bucks.