The ultimate utility player

Adley Rutschman played baseball all four years he attended Sherwood High School.

Mitch Monge, Multimedia Contributor

From football to baseball, freshman Adley Rutschman has been stepping up big for OSU

After the departure of the Beavers’ catcher Logan Ice last season, some big cleats were left to fill for the next man up.

Adley Rutschman, a freshman from Sherwood, Oregon, has been a defensive specialist behind the home plate for the Beavers. Rutschman has been the starter at catcher this season, with Ice getting drafted.

“How do you replace Logan Ice?” head coach Pat Casey said. “I’m not sure anyone’s going to do that in one year, but boy, Adley’s really been good. He’s handled our staff, can’t tell you how many balls he’s blocked to save runs. His arm is a threat to throw anybody out. He’s really responded like a guy that’s been back there for a long time.”

Making the jump from high school to a starter on the No. 1 team in the country is difficult, but Rutschman has made the transition rather smoothly.

“The coaching staff really helped me out,” Rutschman said. “All the catching and pitching coaches helped me with knowing the ins and outs of the game, and being able to control the game from behind the plate, especially as a freshman. I had to learn a lot, and I’m still learning a lot. They just continue to help me out, so I can do my best for the pitching staff.”

The pitching staff Rutschman refers to is one that holds a national best 1.79 ERA. One of Rutschman’s stellar qualities is his defensive ability behind the plate.

“This season, his big thing was that he really wanted to do a good job behind the plate,” Randy Rutschman, Adley’s father, said. “I think that was the real focus for him in the offseason, and he’s getting a lot of help from the coaches at Oregon State. He knew it was going to be a good team, and if he got a chance at catching, he wanted to be good.”

Randy is currently a catching coach at George Fox University. The senior Rutschman has coached with current Beavers coaches Pat Casey and Pat Bailey, and gave Adley exposure to his current Oregon State coaches at a young age.

“I think Adley’s always been kind of an Oregon State fan, just because he watched them growing up, in football and baseball. Also in knowing Coach Bailey, from the time when Bailey was at George Fox, Adley was little and he’d be out running around, so he had a background and he was really comfortable with the coaches already.”

This comfortability ultimately helped the Beavers land the No. 2 baseball prospect in the state of Oregon in 2016. This season, he has committed only two errors, while starting 27 games behind the dish as a freshman.

Rutschman boasts strong defensive statistics, but the offensive numbers have been lacking so far. He is batting .214 on the season with 14 RBIs. Despite the below-average numbers, there is little concern from the switch-hitting Rutschman.

“Hitting’s a process,” Rutschman explained. “If you can be process-oriented, it’ll come around. That’s just what I try and focus on. Not worrying too much about batting average, because it does reflect how you’re doing, but it’s one of those things that if you can just focus on the process, in the end, you’re going to get to where you want to be.”

Once the hitting process is further along, Rutschman appears poised to becoming a top catcher in the conference. However, he didn’t always plan on coming to Oregon State to play catcher. Randy gave some perspective on the position adjustment.

“Originally, when he signed with Oregon State, it was going to be as a pitcher,” Randy said. “As he got further into his senior year, the idea of catching with Logan Ice leaving, that was something they were wanting him to compete for.”

This adaptability has been one of Adley’s key skills throughout his sports career. A two-sport athlete in college, Adley plays kicker for the OSU football team. However, his kicking career started when he was much younger.

In the fifth grade, Adley broke his hand. He still wanted to be able to play football so he went out and “kicked and kicked until he became pretty good,” according to his dad. His freshman year, he was called up to varsity to kick off during playoffs.

During Adley’s senior season, Sherwood was leading 35-7 over Tigard with seconds before the first half expired.

“It was the end of the half, and we were in the semis,” Adley recalled. “We didn’t really have an offensive play from 50 yards out, so we said, ‘might as well kick a field goal here.’”

The left-footed Rutschman came onto the field and lined up the 63-yard attempt after coming up short on a kick earlier in the game.

“When the head coach sent him in, I thought ‘oh my goodness, this has got a shot,’” Sherwood PA announcer Jon Strohmaier said. “It was just phenomenal.”

Rutschman drilled the field goal, and was mobbed by his teammates on the field as the clock expired for halftime. Strohmaier, who was also the Sherwood baseball coach for 24 seasons before taking a job on the George Fox baseball staff this season, knew Rutschman could’ve had a future in football as well.

“Adley’s a once-in-a-lifetime kid,” Strohmaier said. “He’s such an amazing talent. I knew it was a possibility for him to be a Pac-12 kicker.”

Rutschman joined the Oregon State football team as a kicker this season. Being a two-sport athlete at a Pac-12 school has its perks as a player, including playing in big games.

“The Oregon game was just a huge game,” Rutschman said. “Storming the field afterward was just a phenomenal experience. That was obviously a great way to cap off the season.”

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