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When senior catcher Derek Kinnear was a little boy, his mom tried to teach him how to play the guitar, but the Kenton, Ohio native couldn’t concentrate on the task at hand. Perhaps the fancy finger work was too tedious for a hand that was meant to fit smoothly into a catcher’s mitt. These days, it seems as though there isn’t any challenge too difficult for Kinnear to conquer. From playing originals on his guitar to snowboarding, this structural engineering major has important plans for the future – spending time with his family. (Maybe I should talk more about baseball?)

Coach Todd calls you a “Cinderella story,” that you caught a lot of time in the bullpen early on, but went on to be the starting catcher. Knowing where you started, how does it feel to be where you are today?
“It feels great. I came to Ohio State just hoping that I would get the chance to be in at least one game. I came here my freshman year and realized, “I have the tools to do this.” I kept working and working on my defensive part of the game and got in a few games my redshirted freshman year. That fired me up even more. Every summer, I would work as hard as I could, playing in 20-30 games for the Columbus All-Americans. I finally got my chance and it was unbelievable. It’s a great feeling to know that all of that hard work paid off.”

You’ve been mentioned for the Johnny Bench Award. How did you feel when you found out that you were being considered for this honor?
“To be honest, I was really surprised. Before, I only hoped to get in a game, and then these things happen, it makes you feel that much better. At first, I didn’t realize exactly what the award was, and then they told me it was for the top catcher in the nation. I was just blown away – it was something I never expected.”

Being a co-captain, you obviously possess great leadership skills. Paul Farinacci has described you as the clubhouse leader. How do you help motivate those around you?
“My leadership style is my work ethic. People here know that I came in as a walk-on. Nobody had any clue as to who I was. But they saw me work everyday. They would tell me to stay and do that extra stuff after practice and I would. They would see that desire.”

How did you learn how to have such a determined work ethic? Have you always had it?
“I’d have to say I’ve always had it. I contribute it to my dad and my mom. Whenever my dad is working, he says there are two points in life: when you’re working, you’re working, and when you’re not, you go have fun. Whenever I’m trying to get something done, I do it. I focus 100 percent on it.”

Your number used to be 30, but you changed it to eight. Why the switch?
“I kind of just got thrown into that number when I came here. It was something that was open and they wanted me to take it. In the back of my head I was like, “What kind of number is this?” Once I got a little bit older, I asked if I could change, and they let me.”

You played baseball, football and basketball in high school. Do you find time to make it to your former sports games?
“I go to all of the football games, you have to at Ohio State! I have been to three or four basketball games. Basketball wasn’t a big thing for me in high school; I only played my freshman and senior years. I spent most of my time focusing on football and baseball.”

What position did you play in football?
“I played strong safety. I’m a defensive guy.”

Did you have a favorite team or player growing up?
“Actually, I really didn’t. I spent all of my time outside playing, instead of inside watching games. I never followed it much.”

How did you get interested in water sports and snowboarding? Do you like extreme sports?
“I love them. I’ve been skiing at the same place since I was ten years old. It’s kind of a family thing, every summer we go camping and every winter we go skiing. I didn’t get into snowboarding until I was in high school. Once I quit basketball my sophomore year, I got involved in the ski club. I love the outdoors.”

How did you learn to play guitar? Have you written any originals?
“My freshman year here, there were three people on the team who could play. I would sit there and listen to them play and I loved it. I’ve always wanted to learn. My mom can play and she tried to teach me when I was little, but I didn’t have the attention span to do it. I got a guitar my freshman year and would sit and play everyday on my off time and taught myself.

Do you think your musical talent helps you woo the ladies?
“Ah, I wouldn’t say that. I try to keep that on the down low anyways.”

You’re an engineering major. How did you get interested in this area of study?
“I was really interested in architecture, but thought the hours would conflict too much with practice. I found out about structural engineering, which is closely related to architecture. I eventually became a structural engineering major with a specialization in civil engineering.”

What are your plans after graduation?
“I’ve been reading a lot about real estate. Lately I have realized that it’s important to have time for family. I think civil engineering may be too demanding with a family. I’ll probably do both once I graduate.”

Where is the ideal place you would like to sell houses at?
“Any big city would be great. I would like to stay in Columbus. I love this city. Anywhere down south would be nice too.”

What are you most proud of about yourself?
“I can get along everybody. It doesn’t matter who you are. That is what I was known for in high school. Also, I’m proud of my desire to be the best I can be. Sometimes when I am around people, they see how hard I work, and I think they respect that.”

Who inspires you?
“My whole family, my aunts and uncles and everybody who taught me while I was growing up. I owe them a lot. Also, Donald Trump motivates me.”

When are you happiest?
“When I’m playing well on the field. Anytime we’re winning, anytime I contribute, it feels great. I tend to be really tough on myself, so when I have a good game, it’s really nice.”