Second baseman Stephen James is gearing up for his first season as a member of the Ashland Eagles baseball team. There was no question about playing college athletics for James, whose father also played baseball for Ashland University.
“It’s kind of always been a goal of mine,” he stated. “Baseball has always been my favorite sport.”
James, who played shortstop in high school, said the biggest adjustment to college athletics is the speed of the game.
“Everyone is at the same level or better than the top guys were in high school,” James said. “A lot of people are faster, so you have to make plays faster. The pitchers are a lot better at spotting their location and they have multiple pitches they can throw for strikes, so you have to expect a strike at any time.”
Only a few games into his college career, and bouncing back from an ACL tear which occurred while playing soccer his senior year at Westlake High School, James already has a list of goals he would like to achieve during his four years at Ashland.
“One of the main reasons for coming to Ashland, was to have a chance to play in the College World Series,” he said. “From a team perspective, that would definitely be a goal to get there. This year, I would like to solidify my role and get to the level of being the everyday starter.
“I had a little bit of a slow start,” James added. “In the fall I was coming off an ACL tear.”
Ashland Eagles head coach John Schaly thinks James is an important part of the team and he is looking forward to seeing his progress and improvement throughout the four years.
“He’s started a number of games for us at second base,” Schaly said. “We are excited for his future and are happy to have him here. We feel he’s going to be a great player in our program.
“Overall he’s a solid player both offensively and defensively,” he added. “He understands the game and is a smart player.”
James, who was named first team All-conference his junior year at Westlake, and the team’s best fielder his sophomore and junior year and MVP his junior year, credits his high school coach Jeff Short for preparing him for college ball.
“He has seen so many guys pass through his program and go on to college baseball,” James said. “I asked him a lot of questions about the type of skills needed. I was able to play on summer teams where we were challenged by better teams and pitchers. That helped a lot.”