7/01/05 – Daily News Record
Buckeye Swinging Hot Bat For Turks In VBL By MARCUS HELTON Daily News-Record Harrisonburg Turks first baseman Jeff Carroll is enjoying his first season in the Valley League, and not just the baseball. "It’s pretty neat," Carroll said of the Shenandoah Valley. "I really like the atmosphere around with the mountains going around, that’s real neat, and the people are real nice. Up in the big city you don’t always get the friendly atmosphere, but, down here everyone is real nice, and people are always willing to help you out if you’ve got a problem." One place Carroll – a rising junior at Ohio State – hasn’t needed any help lately is at the plate, where he’s hitting .371 (13-for-35) with five RBIs and 14 total bases in eleven games this season. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Carroll became the Turks’ everyday first baseman after Clint Robinson (Troy) was lost for the season with a broken hand, and has helped the Turks keep pace in the Southern Division behind Covington. At the time of his injury, Robinson led the league with 20 RBIs. Coming in to Thursday’s rain-postponed game with Front Royal, the Turks were second in the Southern Division with a record of 12-10, three-and-a-half games behind the Lumberjacks. Carroll’s offensive output was a welcome surprise for the Turks, seeing as he has spent most of his time at Ohio State pitching. As a freshman in 2004, the lefthander went 5-2 with a 3.16 earned run average in 18 appearances, striking out 26 batters. He also played in 12 games at first base, hitting .286. This past season Carroll went 2-0 with a 5.29 ERA on the mound, and his batting average fell to .188. He’s rebounded nicely in the Valley however. In Harrisonburg’s 11-4 win over Haymarket on Wednesday, Carroll went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored. As a VBL pitcher, he’s 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four innings of work, striking out five while walking none. It was the adjustment at the plate that was hardest, he said. "I felt like I got off to a slow start," Carroll said. "Just transitioning from metal to wood is a big difference, but also I pitched a lot more in college ball, so it just took a while for me to start getting my eyes down and seeing the ball and picking up pitches. And starting [with Haymarket] I’m starting to feel real good at the plate, and I’m thinking my hitting is starting to come around." Carroll has also been effective defensively in his eight starts at first base. His current fielding average of .982 is third best on the team, a welcome sight for a team that has struggled with errors all season. "My defense, I feel real strong about that," Carroll said. "That’s one of the things I take pride in. My hitting has come around, and the team’s starting to come around. We go up and down, up and down, but I think we’re starting to come up now again, and get on a roll." Harrisonburg manager Bob Wease, who is housing Carroll and shortstop Jason Seefeld (Arizona), said Carroll’s development has been critical to the team’s success. "What he brings is a good first baseman," said Wease who recently won his 100th VBL game. "But his strong point is he’s a great pitcher. He hasn’t pitched but four innings for us, but he’s a great pitcher. He’ll pitch a lot down the stretch for us. The reason he’s been playing first base is because Clint Robinson got hurt, but he’s done a great job and he’s hit the ball real well. He’s not a big-time power hitter, but he’s a gap-type hitter, and he helps us a lot, he really does." Carroll, who played with the Saratoga Phillies of the New York Collegiate Baseball League last summer, has been impressed with what he’s seen in the Valley League. "The competition’s definitely better," he said. "This is traditionally one of the better leagues. It’s always the Cape Cod League and then this is always two or three. That’s one of the big things with coming down here, you get to play better competition, more scouts get to look at you. And also it prepares you a lot for minor league ball: playing six nights a week, always on the road." The night in and night out pace of the Valley League schedule doesn’t leave much free time. Carroll said he and Seefeld lift weights frequently, with a normal day consisting of an early trip to the gym and lunch before coming to the ballpark. In between he and Seefeld squeeze in games of MVP Baseball on Playstation 2. Not that he minds the busy schedule, however. "It’s real neat how you go from town to town and everyone kind of rallies behind their little teams," Carroll said. "It’s a neat experience, it’s something different than college ball. At Ohio State we average about 3800 people for a game, and we’ve got a big stadium. Then you come here and it’s smaller towns, a slower lifestyle, and it’s just nice to be able to have this be one of your experiences that comes along with baseball."