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Wichita State’s Coy hopes summer away from baseball pays off

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, at 4:19 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, at 7:07 p.m.

Johnny Coy is back in college, sometimes a negative for a senior baseball player. Not for Coy, who enjoys the life, enjoys his teammates and wants to get his degree so he can coach, in a perfect world, at his high school in St. Joseph, Mo.

“It will never be like this again, with college players all pulling in the right direction,” he said. “It’s awesome. I’m happier than ever to be able to come back here and play one more year.”

Coy, Wichita State’s senior first baseman/designated hitter, appeared to be on the fast track out of school almost since the day he arrived. He blasted impressive home runs, hit to all fields and looked the part of a power-hitting first baseman at 6-foot-8. Pro teams knew all about him. Best of all, from his perspective, he pocketed two chances to get drafted and drive a hard bargain, thanks to the leverage afforded him with remaining college eligibility.

Philadelphia picked him in the seventh round of the 2008 draft after his senior season at Benton High. He decided to try baseball and basketball at Arizona State. After transferring to WSU, he sat out the 2009 season and earned Freshman All-America honors in 2010, seemingly setting him up for a pro career starting with the 2011 draft or 2012, at the latest. In 2011, Toronto drafted him in the 45th round and Coy returned to WSU, still with leverage over pro teams with two seasons of eligibility. Last June, he said several scouts told him he would likely be picked in the top 15 rounds.

“One pick after another, just watching it, and nothing happened and nothing happened,” Coy said. “Finally, we were in the 30th round and I was thinking it wasn’t going to happen.”

As a junior, he hit .344 with 17 doubles, nine home runs and 63 RBIs. Those are good numbers, but not numbers that will make pro scouts drool over a college first baseman, a position where power production is required. An injury to his left quad and hamstring bothered him much of the year and helped relegate him to the DH role for 28 games, a factor that may concern scouts.

Coy said he has heard speculation that he told clubs he planned on returning to school, regardless of his draft position, and that scared them off.

“That’s the word, but that’s not true at all,” he said. “I would never say that, ever. Even if I was coming back, I probably wouldn’t say that. It’s one of those things where it just didn’t work out for some teams. I honestly don’t know.”

Everything seems to work out well for Coy and the Shockers, who open their season next Friday against Pittsburgh at Eck Stadium. Coy is happy at WSU and the Shockers can build their offense around an experienced power threat. He owns 23 career homers, playing two seasons with less-lively bats, and should finish his career in WSU’s top 20. The Shockers (35-25 in 2012) are picked second in the Missouri Valley Conference and are trying to return to an NCAA regional for the first time since 2009. Four of WSU’s top five hitters return. While the Shockers struggled at the plate last season — a .385 slugging percentage and a .353 on-base percentage — they hope added experience will juice those numbers this spring.

For Coy to improve his numbers, coach Gene Stephenson wants him to be a more selective hitter. In past seasons, teams often pitched around him because they didn’t fear other Shockers. Sometimes, Coy reacted by growing impatient and swinging at bad pitches.

“He chased a lot of balls,” Stephenson said. “He’s a much more mature guy now. He sees the difference between balls and strikes. And he has a great deal of confidence in the guys around him, that they’re capable of driving in runs, as well.”

Coy took last summer off from baseball. He returned to St. Joseph with the goal of working out to get healthy. He lifted weights at Missouri Western, using the Kansas City Chiefs facilities on campus. Coaches for the St. Joseph Mustangs let him take batting practice and work on fielding with their players. He came back to WSU stronger, upping his bench press from 185 pounds (seven repetitions) to 265. He watched plenty of baseball, often following his teammates in summer leagues via the Internet.

“I didn’t really get a chance to let (the leg) heal; I played through it,” he said. “I really wanted to be healthy for the fall. I did that, and it was a great summer.”

Simpson’s appeal denied — An NCAA committee denied WSU’s appeal to obtain immediate eligibility for infielder Chase Simpson.

WSU requested a waiver for Simpson, a transfer from Oklahoma. NCAA staff members denied that request in late January and WSU appealed to a committee of school and conference administrators.

“The committee also felt that the circumstances did not warrant relief from the legislation,” WSU associate athletic director Korey Torgerson said in an e-mail. “There is a high threshold to receive relief from the one-time transfer legislation in the sports of football, basketball and baseball.”

Athletes are required to sit out one season after transferring from an NCAA school. WSU based its request, and the appeal, on the fact that Simpson walked on at Oklahoma.

Simpson, a junior from Flower Mound, Texas, will be eligible in 2014. He played one season at Weatherford (Texas) College before transferring to OU. He hit .250 with two doubles and two triples for the Sooners in 2012.

Worth noting — Stephenson said junior Cale Elam will start the opener. He expects sophomore A.J. Ladwig and sophomore Kris Gardner to follow in the rotation.… Cox 22 will show seven games this season: Indiana State on April 5; Kansas State on April 16; at Oklahoma State on April 23; at Kansas on April 30; May 3-4 at Missouri State and May 16 against Northwestern.

Check Paul Suellentrop’s Shocker blog at blogs.kansas.com/shockwaves. Reach him at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com.

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