June 25, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Sometimes being successful in the game of baseball simply requires remembering that it’s just that, a game.
That was something sophomore Grant Wruble had forgotten in his first two years at Georgia Tech and had contributed to his playing in only 27 games (four starts), during which he’d hit .182, with six hits.
While he enjoyed being part of the team both seasons, and especially got a charge out of 2014, as the Yellow Jackets took home an ACC Championship, there was a part of him that missed contributing, something he desperately wanted to change.
Wruble realized the solution was to be a little less desperate.
“At the end of the year I kind of reflected on what had happened,” he said. “I definitely pressed too hard in the opportunities that I had.”
The need to lighten up was something that had become obvious to the Georgia Tech coaching staff, as well.
“It wasn’t only me that saw I was putting too much pressure on myself,” said Wruble, who was a three-time All-Region catcher while at Chattahoochee High School, which he led in RBI his final three seasons and in every offensive category his senior year. “They noticed it as well and said that if I’m going to be able to move forward and really progress my mindset has got to change.
“Rather than trying to play stressed all the time I have to play to where I let my talents just take over and enjoy the game because that’s what I’m out here to do, is have fun,” he added. “So when I came out this summer I just came out with a relaxed approach. Rather than trying to do too much and impress people, let my talent work and have fun out there.”
Assistant Coach Jason Howell found the perfect spot for the sophomore to flourish and have fun, the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League. Wruble is playing with the Southern Ohio Copperheads, in Athens, Ohio, about 150 miles from Cincinnati, where he was born, and is having the time of his life on the diamond.
Through 10 games, he’s hitting .310, tied for third on the team, with nine hits (sixth), including a double, four RBI (tied for fifth), and six walks (tied for the team lead). His .429 on-base percentage and .774 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) rank third on the Copperheads, while his .345 slugging percentage is fourth-best.
Wruble credits his doing everything at the plate to not trying to overdo anything.
“I just came out not really trying to do too much,” he said. “I haven’t put too much pressure on myself. I’ve just been able to swing freely and I’ve been making good contact, which is always good to see.”
Grant has been great to see, as he’s been raking from the first game of the summer, on June 9, when he went 2-for-3, also reaching base with a walk. The hitting hasn’t stopped as he had hits in four of Southern Ohio’s first five games, including a second multi-hit game (2-for-5) five days later.
He ended his first week hitting .400, with a 1.017 OPS and a level of confidence that was off the charts.
“It’s always helpful when you get off to a hot start,” he said. “Being able to get off to a very hot start, like I did enabled me to continue to build my confidence. Rather than worrying about those multi-hit games and pressing to get them, I just kind of go up to the plate and I’ve got confidence that I’m going to swing well.”
Wruble’s been as solid defensively. He’s made but one error in 33 chances in the eight games he’s taken the field — he’s DH’ed twice — and has shown his versatility, as, in addition to catching he’s also played at both corner outfield positions.
That willingness to play another position also followed his reflection on 2014.
“I realized that catcher was probably not the only position that I’m going to have an opportunity to play,” he said. “So when I came in I offered up the idea that I could play outfield. They’ve been moving me around and letting me try and get as many opportunities as I can at different places in the field.”
The success he’s having has brought about pleasant association with the word Athens, as Southern Ohio plays its games in Athens, Ohio, at Bob Wren Stadium on the campus of Ohio University.
“It’s really a lot like Athens, Ga., as far as the campus goes. It’s a very pretty campus,” he said. “Being able to play on a college baseball field during summer ball is pretty awesome. They’ve got a good environment up here for sure.”
He’s enjoying all that Athens has to offer.
“It’s a small town but it’s definitely got some things to do,” he said. “We got set up really well with being able to work out in the football team’s weight room. So I’ve spent quite a bit of time in there. Also, there’s a golf course here, which I enjoy doing, there are a couple of guys on the team that live around here, so we’re able to find stuff to do, a lot of fishing and spending time out on the water.”
Wruble’s found that golf is especially nice, as it gives him time to reflect, which is turning out to be a positive habit to get into.
“I just enjoy the game,” he said. “I firmly believe that it helps my baseball swing. So whenever I’m in a slump, if I get out on the links, usually good things come of it.”
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