Jonathan Jahn had to start over.
As a transfer from South Carolina, the redshirt freshman left-handed pitcher did not know whether he would be eligible to play for the 2018 season. But that did not stop him from wanting to play for Ohio State, the school he felt he was meant to attend.
Ohio State was always in the conversation. His father was from Columbus, so Jahn grew up a Buckeye fan.
However, when it came to picking colleges, Ohio State fell below South Carolina in two distinct areas. For Jahn, the weather in Columbia, South Carolina, was better suited for baseball than Columbus and his family was only about an hour away, giving them the ability to see him pitch.
As he began his college career as a Gamecock, those things did not seem to matter as much.
“After the first year, you kind of realize those things aren’t as important as you think they were,” Jahn said. “It’s really more about the atmosphere and the team and the family value that a team brings. At Ohio State, it was bigger than it was at South Carolina.”
In June, South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook resigned his position after finishing with a 35-25 record in his final season, with the team losing its final eight conference series of the season. The Gamecocks brought in Mark Kingston, the former head coach at South Florida.
The culture Kingston created didn’t serve Jahn well.
“He wanted to have guys that were going to play immediately that had some experience,” Jahn said. “So, they picked some guys from junior colleges, you know, to come over and play some of the freshman that were there. He just had a different way he wanted to go about the team.”
The Kingston hire prompted Jahn to transfer to Ohio State. However, in the NCAA, if a player transfers from one Division I school to another, he is subject to sit out one season before he is eligible to compete.
Jahn said Ohio State was worth sitting out a year.
“I could have gone to like a Division II or a junior college school, but I just feel like Ohio State University was the place for me no matter where they were,” Jahn said. “If I had to sit out a year, I had to sit out a year.”
Even with the eligibility problems heading into his first season in Columbus, Jahn had to find a way to fit in with his new teammates. As another transfer student on the Ohio State roster, redshirt senior pitcher Austin Woodby related to what his new teammate was going through.
“It’s really difficult because it basically makes you a freshman again. Starting over at a new organization or new team is never easy,” Woodby said. “That transition is really crucial in the first couple of weeks because, obviously, he is on the team and it’s kind of up to him to prove himself, in a way that he belongs here.”
Through the first few weeks of the season, Woodby and Jahn bonded, talking about their struggles as transfer students coming from major college programs. As time went on, Woodby said the southpaw became progressively more comfortable, describing him as friendly and someone his teammates took to relatively quickly.
Jahn worked to integrate himself into the team culture in the fall, but the NCAA ruled that him ineligible to pitch in the 2018 season. As a left-handed pitcher with high velocity and movement on his fastball, he was not the only one to be disappointed in the decision.
“We were disappointed because we knew he was talented,” Woodby said. “We saw it affected him. “
As his teammates boarded a plane for the season opener in Port Charlotte, Florida, Jahn waited to hear back after Ohio State appealed the initial decision.
It was not until the day before the Buckeyes took on UW-Milwaukee to start the season Jahn heard the NCAA had reversed its decision. A few days later, he was pitching in his first collegiate game in an Ohio State uniform, striking out one batter in an inning of relief.
For Jahn, that span of time was exhilarating.
“Three days before I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to pitch at all this year,” Jahn said. “Three days later I’m in a game in an Ohio State uniform pitching for the Buckeyes. It was an unreal feeling.”
Now with the eligibility issues behind him, Jahn is in Ohio State’s bullpen as one of seven left-handed pitchers. However, Ohio State head coach Greg Beals said this is the time for him to find where he can fit in.
“He’s got potential to be really, really good,” Beals said. “Hopefully now that the waters have calmed a little bit with the NCAA situation, his eligibility situation, he’s going to be able to settle in and really start to grow for us.”
Despite dealing with what Beals described as a rocky offseason, Jahn said he does not regret any of his decisions. They eventually brought him where he needed to be.
“I wouldn’t regret it because, you know, it was a good experience,” Jahn said. “Whether it was bad or negative, however you want to say it, it was still a good experience because you have learned from it. The thing that I learned was that Ohio State was the place I wanted to be.”