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Saturday, June 22
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Junior catcher Josh Phegley leads IU into Big Ten

Junior catcher Josh Phegley throws a ball during practice Thursday afternoon at Sembower Field. He will lead IU in its first Big Ten game Friday against Minnesota.

As a freshman, Josh Phegley spent nights running wind sprints, long after his teammates had left the field.

Whether it was a missed class or team meeting, IU coach Tracy Smith always had a reason to punish the freshman who dared to violate team rules.

Counseling the talented youngster was a 24-hour job that caused Smith to stray from his usually calm demeanor on multiple occasions.

“I can’t remember too many days that I wasn’t in trouble for something,” Phegley said. “The legs are a little fresher, too, after you don’t have to run so many times.”

Smith’s daily drill-sergeant technique has made a difference.

The 2009 baseball season began with the junior catcher’s name plastered on every All-American or player-of-the-year listing.

He had batted .438, posted 80 RBI and smashed 15 home runs the year before. Senior Chris Hervey has played with Phegley for three years and says he has seen an ultimate transformation.

“He’s never an issue. He’s never in trouble,” he said. “He’s the team captain, so that shows you the type of progression he’s made and the type of person he’s become.”

Possessing ability within the diamond, even his teammates rave about him, dubbing him “Mr. Hands.” However, it will take more than one man to win games in the Big Ten. No one knows that more than Phegley heading into IU’s 3 p.m. Friday conference opener against Minnesota.

“Growing up, I had my father as a coach basically every year I ever played,” he said. “He wasn’t a guy that was going to let me go out there and be the privileged one because I was coach’s son.”

Phegley said his father made it a point to be harder on him, which instilled a desire to work harder than everyone on the dirt.

Smith said every coach wants his best player to be last to leave the practice field. But an ideal leader also performs on game day.

“It adds definite credibility,” Smith said. “Sometimes players will look at a guy funny if he’s getting on them, and he’s not playing. You don’t have to be talented to be a leader, but if you have your chops about you, players can look up to you.”

Freshman Blake Monar said Phegley plays the most important position in the game as he protects the ball on defense, bats and works with pitchers.

“Catcher’s the biggest position on the field,” he said. “Everything works around him. He touches the ball on every play. Our success is definitely keyed on him.”

Believing in others is something in which Phegley takes pride. IU pitching has a 6.44 ERA, second-to-last in the Big Ten, but yet he says poise is the key to success.

”Ninety percent of the battle is being confident in the pitcher about to throw,” he said. “I want them to know they can shake me and throw what they want to throw.”

Hervey echoed Monar’s sentiment, saying: “As he goes, we go.”

“When you catch, you can affect the game offensively, defensively and with the pitching staff,” he said. “As well as he plays is as well as we’re going to play as a team.”

Regardless of all the hype surrounding him, Phegley said he simply plays for his teammates.

“I enjoy coming out and playing for these guys,” Phegley said. “It’s just what I love to do.”

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