Monday, October 4, 2010

Dezse and Greve Lead Ohio State Newcomers

Dezse and Greve Opt Buckeyes Over Yankees, Giants

“I’ll never forget, I told him 'If you sign with the Yankees, you’ll never wear an Ohio State uniform, you’ll never be a Buckeye””. Those were the words that Ohio State head baseball coach Greg Beals felt struck a nerve with Ohio State freshman Josh Dezse. “I felt that when I said that to him.'"

A 28th-round draft selection of the New York Yankees, Dezse is the crown jewel of a talent-laden freshman class that Beals hopes is a sign that Ohio State baseball is righting the ship. Beals has made no qualms of what his goal is; to bring back national-prominence that the Buckeyes were a part of in the late 90s, early 00s. “It’s exciting to be a part of this program, and we’re excited to get back in the national spotlight, the spotlight Buckeye Nation expects us to be,” the first-year coach proclaimed.

If Ohio State is to reach the level of success that Beals desires, and the Ohio State fanbase across the board expects, change is needed.

While the Buckeyes were nationally-ranked and reached the Regional Championship of the Tallahassee Regional in 2009, the two seasons prior saw Ohio State finish 6th and 5th in the Big Ten with a 7th place finish in 2010. In a conference where the top six finishers advance to the Big Ten Tournament where a chance to earn a Regional berth is at play, for Ohio State to not be in the field for the first time in 17 seasons, with the tournament being in their backyard at home field Bill Davis Stadium, the bottom fell out of Ohio State baseball. With change undoubtedly needed in the program, Coach Bob Todd retired after 23 seasons.

For baseball fans of the Scarlet & Gray, going forward will be a new experience, one where excitement and anticipation is building. Not only will backers of the program see a new face in charge for the first time since the mid-80s, Beals will be heading a team that lost eight seniors, and has 16 newcomers; 10 true-freshman with six transfers from other programs. While 16 fresh faces, new attitudes, and various levels of skill is enough to shake up things, Ohio State fan have reason to believe going forward the Bucks may not be an afterthought on the national stage for much longer.

Being able to compete on a national level should not be a problem for two particular Ohio State rookies.

Joining Dezse as a player desired out of high school by a professional franchise, is Cleveland-native Greg Greve of Walsh Jesuit, a 45th-round selection by the San Francisco Giants. Like Dezse, who hails from Olentangy Liberty, Greve is a two-way player meaning he pitches while also being able to play a position in the field. For Beals the plan is to utilize both as much as possible, alternating between first-base and Designated Hitter, when not on the mound.

Those two alone nearly represent the number of former Ohio State players with 3-5 years of collegiate baseball, of three, who were drafted this past June and Beals is well-aware of their talent.

“We’re going to combine the two as much as we can,” said Beals. “We have put an emphasis on pitching right now, and that is priority number one, but we’re getting them as many at-bats, and as many reps on the defensive end because they’re special athletes. They’re good enough athletes where I think they can handle both.”

In speaking to Dezse, the eighth-best baseball player in the Ohio high school class of 2010 determined by The Buckeye Scout, and Greve, the seventh-best, while the dollars and dreams of playing professional were tempting, ultimately their desire to be a Buckeye drove them to enrolling putting professional play aside for now.

“The first practice when we put on the shirt, and the hat, and everything it was like a dream come true,” said Dezse who possess a fastball that can reach 95 MPH. “One practice we were able to put on the full uniform and run unto the field and it gave me chills.” There was no less thrill and enjoyment from Greve.

“I’ve been an Ohio State Buckeye fan my whole life, having the opportunity to come down here and be a varsity athlete, like Josh said is a dream come true,” said Greve who as a senior help led Walsh Jesuit to a Ohio High School Athlete Association Division II State Runners-up. “To be able to put on the uniform and run between the lines in Bill Davis Stadium it’s unbelievable, a great experience that I’m trying to make the most of.”

Though now on the same team, it almost became a reality that two of Ohio’s top preps would be on opposite sides on a bitter rivalry.

For Greve the decision to don the Scarlet & Gray was a no-brainer.

“When they made me the offer I went along to see what other people would do, but in my heart I always knew I would be a Buckeye, that I would end up here once they made me the offer.”

While Dezse stated his recruiting experience was similar to Greve’s he did allude to one interesting fact.

“My best friend went to Michigan (Michael O’Neill), that’s where I was going to go first,” said Dezse with a chuckle. “But similar to Greve, I went on college visits and it wasn’t the same as being here, my decision wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”

While the decision of where to attend college may not have been difficult for Dezse, the decision to opt to college versus starting his professional career with the Yankees was not as easy.

“It was really, really hard,” said Dezse in reference to spurning an offer from one of sports most recognizable teams. “Especially after seeing their complex… it was so hard to turn down, but at the same time I’m happy to be here.”

While the Giants may not have the cache as the Yankees do, the opportunity to make a living playing baseball at the age of 18 is enticing and the decision weighed on Greve as well.

“They drafted me for a reason,” Greve spoke of the playoff-bound Giants. “They told me they wanted to make me an offer, but I think they knew the entire time I wanted to be a Buckeye, that I wanted to continue my education and go to school. The decision was not as tough for me, I really wanted to be a Buckeye, this is where I want to be.”

Though they put aside their professional aspirations for at least three seasons, they can look at MLB right now and see no reason to think Ohio State will do nothing but enhance their chance to playing Major League Baseball.

Like Dezse and Greve, former Buckeye Cory Luebke was drafted out of high school. The Maria Stein Marion Local native was tabbed in the 18th-round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2004 before electing to play collegiately at Ohio State. Three years removed from winning the 2007 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year award, Luebke made his MLB debut on September 3rd for the San Diego Padres who were in the middle of a pennant chase. The exploits of Luebke were not lost on Greve.

“I think he (Luebke) was the Pitcher of the Year in 2007, so that wasn’t too long ago. He came from a Buckeye program, so it shows that it is possible (to reach the majors), if you keep working hard, and continue to get better. You never know what will happen,” said Greve.

However for now, the ability to attract top talent such as the pair is a welcomed change for Ohio State baseball, and an ace-in-the-hole Beals know he has.

The lure of Ohio State is known to none more than the head coach himself. While entrenched in Muncie, Indiana for the previous seven seasons building Ball State into a Regional contender, he jumped at the opportunity this summer to be the latest baseball coach, and knows what impact of potential being a Buckeye has.

“It’s nice that at Ohio State, those guys want to be here, they want to be Buckeyes... It says something about the university, the prestige of playing at Ohio State” said Beals. As Beals wants Ohio State to be at the level expected by Buckeye Nation, the players just as much want to raise the profile of Ohio State’s oldest varsity sport.

“Every Ohio State sport is real competitive. You look at this stadium (Bill Davis) and see fans want to come to baseball games. We’re going to put a show on for our fans,” said with the bravado of one who turned away the Yankees, as Dezse and Greve lead Ohio State into an exciting new era.

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