April 27, 2006

J.B. Shuck is a three-in-one type of player. The Galion, Ohio, native came to Ohio State as an outfielder and pitcher, but has covered first base for the Buckeyes as well. In Shuck’s final season at Galion High School, he posted a .578 batting average as he led the team with eight home runs, 11 doubles, two triples, 52 hits and 36 RBI. Now as a freshman, he already has received national acclaim for his success on the mound. He is 6-1 with a 1.29 ERA as a pitcher and also has started games at first base and in left field. Shuck is having a ball as one of 15 freshmen on the Buckeyes’ roster and thinks the youthful nature of the team bodes well for the program’s future. First things first, however, this year’s team is in the hunt for a Big Ten championship.

When did you start playing baseball?
“I started when I was 2 years old. That’s the first time I ever had a ball in my hands. Everybody in my family plays sports, so growing up in an athletic family, it was natural to be involved in sports.”

When did baseball become a competitive sport for you?
“It started getting competitive in Little League, but when I was 11 years old I started playing travel baseball. Travel baseball got really competitive because we were playing teams from other states and countries. We played teams from Mexico, Japan, Puerto Rico and Brazil.”

How was your transition from high school to college?
“It was difficult. The pitching on the college level is better. The pitchers throw a lot harder and spot the ball better, but it wasn’t too bad because of the teammates I have here (Ohio State). When I’m pitching I know that if I throw a couple of strikes, the defense will be able to make the play, so it takes some pressure off. In the classroom it’s different, too, because now I’m on my own. I have to make sure I’m doing my homework and studying without anyone reminding me of due dates like teachers and parents would in high school.” When you were in middle school did you imagine you would still be playing baseball in college?
“It was always my dream. Since I was really little, I’ve wanted to play Major League Baseball. That’s why I started playing travel ball. When I had success at that level, playing baseball at a higher level became more of a reality.”

What advice would you give students on how to make it to the college level?
“Always work hard, on the baseball field and in the classroom because you can’t play sports if you don’t keep your grades up. Also, listen to the coaches. It may seem they don’t know what they are talking about but they really do.”

What was your favorite class in middle school and what are you studying at Ohio State?
“In middle school, math was my favorite class. Math has always been my favorite subject because it comes easy to me. I’m a sports and leisure studies major because I want to coach either baseball or basketball when I graduate. I played both in baseball and basketball in high school, so I’d like to work with those sports.”

Who was your favorite teacher?
“My favorite teacher probably was Mr. Miller, my middle school science teacher. He was a really funny guy. In his class we dissected things. We built molecules out of gum drops and other goofy labs that made science fun.”

Why did you attend Ohio State over other universities?
“I knew Ohio State offered a great coaching staff, facilities and competition. Everything here was top notch and a step above all the other schools looking at me, and I knew a lot of the guys in the class above me.”

How would you characterize your first season with the Buckeyes?
“It’s everything I hoped for. The team is playing awesome and we have a bright future because we’re a young team. I moved back out to the outfield after starting the season at first base. I came to Ohio State as an outfielder/pitcher. After playing on first for a few games I feel more comfortable there now than at the beginning of the season. I don’t mind moving position because I just like playing. Whatever the coaches need me to do I’ll do.”

Did you admire a particular baseball player when you were younger?
“I always liked Kenny Lofton. He was always many favorite player because it seemed like every game he was robbing a home run or diving and catching a hard hit ball.”

How do you stay focused out in the field?
“I’ve been playing for so long; I don’t have a problem focusing on the game. I just take the field and know that I have to give 100 percent everyday. I don’t have any superstitions or rituals to get in the game.”