Archive for Thursday, May 26, 2005

Opinion: Basehor’s Babe Ruth?

May 26, 2005

Babe Ruth is known for one thing: hitting towering home runs. Ruth became such a hitting icon that many casual baseball fans probably don't know that early in his career, the Babe was an accomplished pitcher.

Similarly, a casual fan of Kaw Valley League baseball might know Basehor-Linwood's Josh Ishmael only as a third baseman with a dangerous bat. But Ishmael made his mark on the mound last year.

In his junior season Ishmael pitched his way to a 2-5 record but established himself as the Bobcats' most steady arm, compiling a 3.88 ERA to lead the team. He also led Basehor in innings pitched and strikeouts.

But just when Basehor coach Dave Svoboda thought he had found a sure-fire ace for the 2005 season, Ishmael's shoulder put a quick halt to his plans. Ishmael had rotator cuff problems that flared up with the repeated stress of pitching lots of innings.

"It had pain in it, like, constantly if I threw like as hard as I wanted to," Ishmael said. "I couldn't throw 100 times in a game."

Svoboda decided to keep Ishmael off the mound this year because he had committed to play football at Butler County Community College, and neither of them wanted to jeopardize those plans.

"We were disappointed when we found out that his shoulder injuries might prevent him from pitching," Svoboda said. "But he kept a great attitude and was an obvious contributor offensively and defensively at third base."

Indeed, Ishmael made Basehor fans forget all about the frustration of losing him as a pitcher by making himself indispensable at the plate. He had a sterling .483 batting average with one homer and 25 RBIs. He was third on the team in at bats and third in hits with 29. Eleven of his hits were doubles, which led the Bobcats, and his 11 walks were also a team-high. All that while providing a dependable glove at third base, an integral part of Basehor's solid infield defense.

But for those fans who were nostalgic about his pitching days, Ishmael gave them a satisfying reminder by going one scoreless inning against Bonner Springs in the rival schools' annual showdown at Kauffman Stadium. It was a return to the site where he had earned a complete game victory the year before, and the adrenaline started pumping.

"It gave me the fire to want to pitch some more," Ishmael said.

Svoboda allowed Ishmael some mound time in a few games after that, but kept his pitch count limited. He knew it was a difficult situation, but he didn't regret whetting Ishmael's pitching appetite by letting him go an inning at the K.

"Being able to pitch at Kauffman, even though it was just for an inning, I'm sure it was a highlight for him, as it was for me," Svoboda said.

So, in the end, everything seemed to work out for the best in Ishmael's baseball career. He got the experience of being his school's ace pitcher in his junior year and followed that up with a season as one of his team's best hitters. Best of all, he saved his shoulder so it should be ready for the rigors of football season at Butler this fall. Any chance he'll try and take his big bat to the college ranks?

"Right now it's just football," Ishmael said. "But if something would come up where I could play baseball, I'd leave the option open."

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