Practice makes perfect. That is the oldest cliché in sports for those who aspire to great accomplishments, such as becoming a hitting behemoth like the American League MVP Josh Donaldson.
Jacob Bosiokovic, a redshirt junior outfielder for Ohio State, watched Donaldson and the Blue Jays throughout last season and postseason, modeling his swing after Donaldson’s signature leg kick. Often standing in front of a mirror doing his best to replicate the violent motion, Bosiokovic spent his offseason making minor adjustments to his swing in order to become a force in the Buckeye lineup come late February.
After being a productive everyday player his freshman year in 2013 by batting .273 and knocking in 33 runs with four home runs during 55 starts, the Delaware, Ohio, product’s output tapered off a bit in 2014, as he batted .268 and hit only one home run with 26 runs batted in. His playing time became inconsistent, too, and due to injury he started only 43 games.
In July 2014, Bosiokovic underwent successful Tommy John surgery and attempted to come back in February 2015 for the season. After starting in three games and appearing in five, OSU coach Greg Beals elected to shut down the two-time Ohio high school player of the year for his true junior season and employ a medical redshirt.
Losing seven of its last nine games and barely missing an NCAA Regional berth to end the 2015 season, OSU players dejectedly watched the NCAA tournament from their homes. Bosiokovic said he vividly remembers being in recovery and not having the chance to contribute to his team down the stretch.
“It just made me realize how much I miss playing … not just baseball but outside baseball, being around all the guys,” Bosiokovic said. “It just made me really appreciate the time I have here because you never know when it will be gone.”
Hardly into March, the 2016 edition of the OSU baseball team already has had its fair share of storylines including newcomers, players of the week and nail-biting finishes. The Buckeyes are 5-2-1 to start the season with one Top 25 win and two walk-off or extra-inning victories. Back in the starting lineup, Bosiokovic has been one of the top headlines thus far.
In the second game of the season versus Niagara, the game was tied at 7 when Niagara pitcher Matt McCuen walked Troy Montgomery — arguably OSU’s best hitter — to get to Bosiokovic. The moment for walk-off glory was staring him in the face just 60 feet, six inches away — a moment he had been waiting for for more than a year. The redshirt junior knew the metaphorical clock in the timeless game of America’s pastime had struck midnight.
Bosiokovic hit a towering fly ball so close to the left field line that it seemed as if he was doing his best Carlton Fisk impression by waving the ball fair while trotting down the first base line. The sparse crowd erupted as Bosiokovic circled the bases on a three-run, walk-off home run that clanked off the foul pole and gave the Buckeyes the victory.
“I wasn’t even trying to hit a home run, I was trying to do my job, just get a good swing on a ball,” Bosiokovic said. “For me to be the person, it’s fun just running around the bases and you round third and all the boys are right there. That’s something I haven’t experienced here, and it’s really cool.”
In the first week of action, Bosiokovic was 7-for-17 at the plate, scoring seven times, racking up eight RBIs and launching three home runs while picking up Big Ten and national player of the week honors. He became the Buckeyes’ first national player of the week since 2009.
Because Bosiokovic was injured for almost two years, Beals said the player’s early success this season is huge for his confidence.
“To get out of the gates like he did is a great sign, huge for his confidence, huge for the team to have him do what he’s doing because you have Montgomery and (Ronnie) Dawson as the keynote guys in the lineup, to have another guy in the lineup producing also makes us dangerous,” Beals said.
In the Coastal Carolina Tournament this past weekend, Bosiokovic was a late-inning hero for the Buckeyes once again with a two-run home run against Liberty in the bottom of the eighth inning, lifting OSU from a 4-3 deficit to a 5-4 victory.
Bosiokovic is currently tied for ninth in the country and leads the Big Ten in home runs with four, and he is tied for first in the conference in RBIs, with 10.
As a reminder from a year ago when he would have given nearly anything to be on the field dressed in Scarlet and Grey, Bosiokovic wrote a message inside the bill of his cap that reads, “Do your job and trust it.”
Growing up about 30 miles from campus, the product of Rutherford B. Hayes High School learned the hard way to cherish every moment he has left playing on a diamond.
“I think that kind of helped me mentally, just going at everything 100 percent,” Bosiokovic said. “I’m trying to take the full advantage of the time I have here.”
Bosiokovic and the Buckeyes are set to resume action over the weekend with three games in the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Florida.