April 9, 2009
From Chasing Running Backs to Smashing Fastballs
By Maggie Corwin '12
Northwest Missouri State University's head baseball coach, Darin Loe, made 23 new additions to the team this season including one who was especially unique.
After four years of football, and achieving the status of an All-American linebacker, Jared Erspamer, having one year of eligibility left, decided to go out for Bearcat baseball. At the time of his decision, Erspamer was still a student assistant coach for the football team.
"(Associate Head Coach Matt) Johnson was kidding around about me going out, but as it turned out he was serious," said Erspamer. "I came down and hit in the cages one day with the team and things progressed from there."
Leaving the gridiron, Erspamer traded his helmet and pads for a leather glove, made the cut and quickly earned a spot in the starting lineup. He's started 24 games, 23 at first base, and is tied for the team lead with eight doubles and 16 RBIs. His .291 batting average ranks third.
"It's a credit to what Jared does," said Nick "Bob" Pfeiffer, a junior and a team captain. "He was down here all winter hitting balls off tees and pitching machines in order to get better and it shows on the field."
Before arriving at Northwest in 2004, Erspamer played high school baseball at Millard South in Omaha, Neb., and earned all-state honors.
"At first I thought going back to baseball would be a lot like riding a bicycle," said Erspamer, "But it's definitely not like that. It was a lot harder off the start than I thought it would be."
How quickly Erspamer could pick up the game again concerned Loe as well.
"We've seen him play football and know he's an exceptional athlete," said Loe. "But baseball is a game of repetition and it's difficult to bounce back when you're not playing."
In addition to relearning the game, Erspamer had to adjust to a new set of teammates, many of whom had been with the program for a number of years.
"Bob is an awesome captain," said Erspamer. "He's been a leader on this team the past two seasons. He and the rest of the guys have been great. They could've resented me for going out for one year, but I haven't seen any of that. They've been really cool."
"Jared has a personality that's easily embraced," said Pfeiffer. "It's hard to dislike a teammate who works hard all the time. He's high-energy and laidback at the same time. Nothing gets to him. He's an all-around good guy."
Erspamer's natural athleticism has proved beneficial to the team. He's the only every-day starter who has yet to commit an error this season. But athleticism and hard work doesn't always help with the transition. Re-learning the game and a new set of signs can prove difficult for the best athlete.
"He had to feel his way around early on," said Loe. "Every once in a while he would ask questions or say 'You know I have no idea what to do in this situation.' Every once in a while we'd take a step back and re-teach, but I guarantee the next time in that situation, he'd know what to do.
"Jared's a fast learner. You tell him once and he'll make the correction."
Though this will be Erspamer's only year of eligibility for baseball, he doesn't show any sign of wanting it to end.
"My goal is to keep winning and see how far we can go," said Erspamer. "We have a talented team, but our record doesn't show that right now. We've started to build momentum and as long as we keep going that way, I'll be happy.
"I went out for baseball because I love to compete. I had a year left and decided I might as well use it - you only live once."
Erspamer will remain at Northwest for two years as a graduate assistant for Bearcat football starting this fall. The 2007 MIAA Most Valuable Defensive Player, Erspamer played in 54 games on the gridiron, accumulating 276 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions. He played in three national championship games.
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