April 9, 2002

Nearly everyone that plays baseball growing up spends time as an outfielder at one point or another. Such was the case with Ohio State catcher Joe Wilkins.

Wilkins, according to his mother Kathy, spent so much time in the outfield, he started picking dandelions to pass the time since the action very rarely took place in the outfield in youth baseball. So, she went to Joe’s coach and asked that he be moved to a position that would help keep his attention better. The coach moved Joe behind the plate and with that, Joe began his career as a catcher at about the age of 10.

Now, Joe would not only be involved with every play, but every pitch as well.

The involvement with every pitch is what Wilkins likes the best. He likes the feeling of being in control.

“I like the feeling of having control of every pitch,” Joe said after last Sunday’s 9-2 victory over Northwestern, a game in which he hit his second home run of the season. “I like to have an influence on the game by calling the pitches.”

In order to do that, though, Wilkins must have the respect and trust of the pitchers he catches for, which he has been able to earn through his hard work his first three years as a Buckeye.

“Joe does a great job calling pitches,” said Nate Smith, who threw a one-hitter through seven innings to get the win over Northwestern and earn Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors. “He knows what I throw best. I think he might actually read me better than my girlfriend.”

The senior from Grove City, Ohio, has started all but five of the team’s 21 games this season as the Buckeye backstop, though he has played in 19 games this season. Coming off the bench, Wilkins has been able to deliver a spark. Against Lafeyette in the Homestead Challenge, he entered the game in the seventh inning with Ohio State trailing 4-1. His sacrifice fly scored Doug Larason, which was the second of three Buckeye runs in the inning. He reached on a fielder’s choice in the eighth that scored Christian Snavely, giving the Buckeyes the lead for good.

Offensively, Wilkins is batting .328 (20-for-61) and has batted in 18 runs. Five of his 20 hits have been for extra bases, including three doubles. Wilkins has a .976 fielding average with just three errors in 125 chances.