Eric Beiersdorfer / Lantern photographer
Ohio State catcher Greg Solomon steps up to the plate, sets his stance and locks in to battle the opposing pitcher. Both are focused on their task at hand, but the pitcher is unaware of the journey Solomon took to get to this at-bat, the reason he might be standing on second or third when the battle is over.
That journey has produced a hitter leading the team with a .384 batting average, 10 extra base hits and a .587 slugging percentage.
It included using wooden bats in junior college before transferring to OSU, which improved his swing.
“Coming from wood bats to metal bats is a good transition,” Solomon said. “Using wood, you get more of a true idea of where the ball is going to go and I feel like you get a better swing.”
Solomon was able to use wooden bats because he played junior college baseball in Phoenix at Paradise Valley Community College. Arizona is different from most states in that it lets its junior colleges use wooden bats.
Victor Solis, Solomon’s coach at Paradise Valley, said wooden bats played a big role in Solomon’s development, as he was defensively a Division I player coming out of high school, but not ready offensively.
“He struggled offensively with us early, because it is so much harder to hit with a wood bat,” Solis said. “You learn how to deal with failure when you’re struggling offensively and still be able to contribute on the defensive side of the game, and that combination of stuff helped make Greg a better player.”
Solomon went to Paradise Valley because it was one of a few local community colleges recruiting him. No Division I schools recruited him out of high school.
Despite hitting just .241 his first year, he was recruited by Arizona, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Oregon, San Diego State and OSU. Solis attributed this to Solomon’s hard work and how well he plays catcher.
Solomon said he chose the Buckeyes because he wanted to try something new, away from home, and he felt OSU wanted him as a player.
“All the other schools just needed another catcher spot to fill,” Solomon said. “I felt like the coaches here did a better recruiting job than the other coaches because they seemed like they wanted me, Greg Solomon, as opposed to just another catcher.”
OSU coach Greg Beals was not a part of the recruiting of Solomon, but accredited his success to being a competitor and being aggressive at the plate.
“He’s a scrappy guy and, offensively, he’s kind of a free-swinging guy,” Beals said. “He’s got a few strikeouts, he chases some pitches, but he’s always got the bat ready to try and get a hit.”
His defensive play has not slipped since transferring from Paradise Valley. Solomon has just five passed balls in 25 games, and has caught 30 percent of base runners trying to steal.
More importantly, the pitchers are comfortable with their new catcher and how he controls the game.
“He does a real good job back there, just getting signs down, keeping me in a rhythm and planning pitches for me,” senior pitcher Drew Rucinski said. “He just keeps me calm and confident out there to keep attacking hitters with him.”
Solomon said as a catcher he feels he always needs to be a leader and that it did not take him long to fit in with the team.
His personality is one of the other factors that has led to such an easy transition. Rucinski said Solomon is an outgoing guy, always joking around, and that his ability to have fun has helped him do well.
“He just goes out there and has fun with it and attacks the game,” Rucinski said. “I think if you have the right mindset like he does and have fun with it, you can be successful.”
Solomon used that mindset to make a successful transition from junior college to Division I and may have the chance to use it to make a transition to the professional level, something he said he has always dreamed of and thinks he has a chance to do someday.
Right now, however, he is just focused on continuing to be OSU’s best hitter and a leader defensively.
“I’m just going to keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing, just keep working hard on off days and before games,” Solomon said. “I just have to keep my good approach that I’ve had this year and keep leading the team back there behind the plate.”