A Mind for the Game

At the end of the 2008 season, Northwestern hurler Eric Jokisch shut out nationally ranked Michigan, becoming the only pitcher all season to quiet the high-scoring Wolverine offense that averaged nearly eight runs per game. That performance helped the southpaw earn Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors — this from a guy who two years ago thought he'd be playing at a community college.

"I really didn't understand how much potential I had," Jokisch said. The awakening came during his junior season of high school when he struck out 21 batters in a high school playoff game.

Choosing Northwestern was not a difficult decision for Jokisch. He knew he needed to earn a degree first and foremost. Playing for a Big Ten team with a history of major-league draft picks became an obvious perk.

"My mom has always said that she doesn't care if I get to the majors as long as baseball helps me to be successful in other ways," said Jokisch, who grew up in tiny Virginia, Ill. "Baseball is helping me get one of the nation's top educations."

Initially Jokisch planned on majoring in engineering, but he soon realized his ability to get inside batters' heads could have a practical application, so he chose psychology. "A lot of guys on the team kept coming up to me in the locker room to talk and get my advice, even when I was a freshman," said Jokisch. "I've always been able to think about what other people are thinking and make them feel better."

Although Jokisch committed to Northwestern early in his senior year of high school, pro scouts continued attending his games. Jokisch describes the experience as both exciting and humbling, especially since a scout from his favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals, attended nearly every game.

The Cleveland Indians drafted Jokisch in the 39th round even though they knew he was going to college to work on his craft. "I didn't feel I was mentally prepared to play pro ball yet," Jokisch said.

Wildcats' pitching coach Tim Stoddard, though, says there's not much to improve on after Jokisch's 8-2 freshman campaign. He hopes to cut down on walks and develop a cutter against right-handers.

"He's very coachable, which is the thing I like more than anything," Stoddard said.

— Ryan Morton (J08)