It's Baseball and Kurt Suzuki in DC

(photo courtesy of Jonathan Newton/Washington Post)

 I've been busy with work so I haven't had a chance to post some stuff that I wanted to. But here's some good stuff on my man Kurt Suzuki, catcher for my home team the Washington Nationals. The Washington Post had an interesting piece on Kurt in their spring training coverage.

An excerpt:

 VIERA, Fla. — George Horton ran a college baseball powerhouse at Cal State-Fullerton, the kind of program that had no place for someone like Kurt Suzuki. Horton had never seen or heard of Suzuki before a scout pal mentioned the high schooler in Hawaii. “We didn’t know a whole heck of a lot about him,” Horton said. “We heard from our network of friends that this little catcher from Maui wanted to come and walk on at Fullerton.” 

 On an island with 160,000 permanent residents, Suzuki played against five or six high schools. Few scouts noticed. But Fullerton needed a catcher, and there was no risk, so Horton let Suzuki join the team. Suzuki took the leap from Hawaii to major college baseball as a challenge. With no experience against elite peers, Suzuki began competing with kids who had attended higher-profile California high schools and earned scholarships. “He needed to have some sort of edge,” said Warren Suzuki, Kurt’s father. Instantly, “we just fell in love with him,” Horton said. 

In three years, the little catcher from Maui had become the leader on the 2004 national champions. Three years later he was in the majors. He came to the Washington Nationals at the 2012 trade deadline, and he will begin the 2013 season as their starting catcher. In less than a half a season, Suzuki became the nerve center for the Nationals’ pitching staff.  He arrives at Space Coast Stadium daily at 6:30 a.m., the first one there, to work alone. He greets teammates with relentless positivity and cheerful prodding. 

 As a kid, Suzuki devoured Atlanta Braves games on TBS, usually the only baseball he could watch. He loved to play. A random connection — a Fullerton assistant coach played college ball with a high school coach on Maui — opened the door for him to play in college. In 2004, he won the Johnny Bench Award as the country’s best catcher and led Fullerton to a national title. The Oakland Athletics noticed and drafted the once unknown kid with the 67th overall pick. Early in his minor league career, Suzuki called Horton with a problem. His professional coaches wanted him to curtail his exuberance, to not be a “rah-rah college guy.” Suzuki was taken aback. 

 “It was kind of a slap in the face to him,” said Horton, now the coach at Oregon.... 

 In his last final 29 games of the regular season, Suzuki batted .309 with a .362 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage with five homers. At one point, he started 11 of 12 games. If he could walk, he played. “He’s a gamer,” Desmond said. “He plays banged up. There’s nothing better than a foul ball going off his arm, and he just bounces up and says, ‘Here.’ He tells the umpire to get back behind the plate. Let’s go.”
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