COLUMBUS, Ohio – Steel Russell grew up playing baseball. He also grew up around the business of baseball as his father, John, was first a Major League player and today he is third base coach for the Baltimore Orioles. Steel is a second-year player for the Buckeyes who, after redshirting last year, has gotten into 12 games and made five starts, including his first career start Feb. 19 vs. Louisville. We caught up with the catcher recently. 

My dad played pro baseball.He retired in 1992 after playing in the Major Leagues for seven years with the Phillies, Rangers and Braves.

He actually caught Nolan Ryan’s sixth no-hitter. He wasn’t supposed to catch that day, but the starting catcher couldn’t go. So my dad caught and Nolan threw a no-hitter. I wasn’t born yet.

I basically grew up in a clubhouse. I got to see how the game operates at the next level. That was so cool, but at the same time I’ve seen how hard it actually is. I don’t have a naïve outlook on the game. I’ve seen the brutal side of it.

I was upset when the Pirates let my dad go. You try not to take it personally, but they left him high and dry. They brought him in to do a job. Things were looking up and there were bright spots. Then they said “thanks, see you later.” That’s one of those things in baseball. It is a business. 

I am so much of a better ball player today. I had the privilege to play behind Dan Burkhart, one of the most impressive catchers I’ve ever seen and a great offensive player, too.

This year I’ve worked a lot with Coach Beals.I feel I’ve really progressed.

It is a huge help to have Coach Beals as our coach. If you come to him with a question he can answer it because he’s been there. He can show you. His knowledge is vast.

Coach Beals always has drills for us.He’s hands on with it. And he will get into the mix and show you how to do it. There is never a question how we do things because he will get in and show us how to do it.

It feels amazing to play. I sat all last year as a redshirt and watched. It was tough to sit on a bench knowing you can’t help the team. To be given the opportunity as a freshman is a big deal to me. I hope I can continue to get time and contribute to the team.

It felt really good throwing out the Louisville runner in my first start. We work on transferring the ball out front with our hands…trying to be quicker with our throws. It all culminated in that game. Once he went and I threw him out, I realized I’m just as good as the next guy and that I’m ready to play at this level.

I’m an English major.All throughout high school it was the only class I really enjoyed. Reading and writing have always come naturally to me. I’ve always written in a journal and always enjoyed reading books.

I don’t know where I want the degree to lead.I may possibly go to law school, but I also wouldn’t mind going back to “Philly” to teach English and coach baseball. I haven’t thought that far ahead. I’m only 20.