July 10, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Over the last two summers Grant Wruble has come to really enjoy playing in Athens.
“The fans are always good. It’s a good time,” Wruble said. “There’s a section of guys that are there pretty much every game and they’re as good as I’ve ever seen. The Athens townies love us. They don’t give us too hard of a time but they’re always giving heck to the other teams. I feel bad for the teams that come to play us.”
Before Yellow Jackets fans flood Georgia Tech baseball coach Danny Hall’s office about rescinding the senior’s scholarship, know that the Johns Creek, Ga., native is not referring to Athens, Ga., but Athens, Ohio, where he’s playing this summer in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League with the Southern Ohio Copperheads. The Copperheads play their home games on the Ohio University campus, in Athens, Ohio.
“I hate that other place,” he said, with a laugh. “My girlfriend got to come here for the Fourth and she goes to UGA. I always tell her, ‘This is the TRUE Athens.’ I love this team up here, the town is awesome, and the coach, Coach [Jonathan] Nichols, he’s a great coach and really works with us well. It’s great to come up here and play for him.
“I thought about going to another league but this is really the best possible situation that you can have playing summer baseball, I believe, unless you’re in the Cape Cod,” he added. “I get to use the football weight room and work out whenever I want, the travel’s pretty easy. You can’t argue with getting to play on Ohio University fields and use the facility. So it’s a great place to be.”
Wruble’s comfort with his surroundings and the League — this is his second straight summer playing for the Copperheads — is reflected in the numbers he’s put up over his first month. Heading into action on July 9, he was batting .318 (third on the team), with a .396 on-base percentage (fifth) and an .839 OPS (third). He’s leading Southern Ohio with 28 hits, is second in homers (2) and doubles (5), and is third in runs batted in (15), runs scored (13) and walks (11).
He’s recorded 10 multi-hit games, including a pair of three straight multi-hit-game streaks, and has gotten a hit in 17 of the 21 games when getting at least two at-bats, and has become a threat to steal, going 4-for-5 in stolen base attempts.
He started the summer hitting in 12 of his first 13 games and a .393 batting average (22-for-56), with nine multi-hit games and really hasn’t cooled off.
The closest he’s come was last week, when he had his first back-to-back hitless games of the summer (July 4 and 5). He admitted that it felt strange not being on base having reached in 19 of the 22 games in which he’s appeared.
“It feels like I haven’t been on forever. I guess I got off to TOO hot of a start,” he said, with a laugh. “But I’m not too worried. I’ll come back.”
Wruble came back to Athens after a solid summer of 2014 (.281, 3 doubles, 9 RBIs, with four multi-hit games, including a 3-for-3 in his finale) ready to put up some numbers following a 2015 season on The Flats in which he admittedly did not live up to his expectations.
“I didn’t get to play as much this past season as I was really hoping to and a couple of my good friends went really high in the Draft this past year,” said Wruble, who batted .194 with seven RBIs in 24 games (four starts). “I remember when I first came up here I really wanted to play and I think being that excited to play baseball again and work hard and compete has led to success. I’m really enjoying it.
“Lately I think because I’ve cooled off I’ve put a little bit more pressure on myself,” he added. “But it’s something I always have to keep in the back of my head, that I’m having to come to work but remember that it’s just a game. I’m trying to have fun out there.”
His fun in Ohio will soon be coming to an end, however, as Grant is planning to head back to Atlanta in the near future to begin strength training with Tech Strength and Conditioning Coach Steve Tamborra.
“One of my goals this summer is I wanted to get a lot stronger and put on some weight because I felt that I lost a little bit of strength this past season,” he said. “So I’m looking forward to getting back and getting to work out with Steve, because he can work me pretty hard in the weight room. Hopefully that will lead to even more success on the baseball field.”
Wruble played primarily at catcher (11 games) with the Copperheads, while also DHing (nine), and getting a taste of the outfield, making a start in left and one in right. He hopes that extra strength combined with his versatility will pay off come the Fall and his final season as a Yellow Jacket, whether it be sharing catcher duties with Arden Pabst — a role that has grown in importance following the graduation of A.J. Murray — or spelling guys in the outfield.
“I really respect everything Coach Hall and the coaching staff do. Wherever they want to play me I’m totally happy with,” he said. “I’ve just got to get as many reps as I can this summer so I can come in in the Fall as best as I can be. The coaches take care of that. Provided I’m playing hard I’ll be successful.”