SPOTLIGHT: Evangel’s youngest Eagle doesn’t sweat the small stuff

LITTLE BIG MAN: Evangel secret weapon Brody Turnipseed with teammate Isaac Erickson.

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports

There are lots of storylines when it comes to Evangel’s Brody Turnipseed. Let’s start with the name, because you’ve got to admit it’s an attention getter.

Then there is the fact that he is an eighth grader, which means the Eagles’ youngest baseball player is sometimes going against pitchers who could be as many as five years older than he is.

But Topic A when it comes to the reserve middle infielder for the Eagles is his height. How much of it there is remains a little sketchy.

“Four-foot 10,” Turnipseed says. “Maybe 4-11. Let’s just go with five feet.”

Whatever it may be, let’s understand that this is no sideshow for the Evangel team.

“Baseball’s a great game because it’s not always about your size or your age,” says assistant coach Joe Hulett. “Baseball is usually separated by skill. And his skill set is elite. He’s got great hands and great hand-eye coordination.”

And he uses that baseball skill set in a unique way.

When Turnipseed gets his opportunity off the Evangel bench, he can contribute in multiple ways in the same at bat. When he gets called, “mostly it’s to get the bunt down” he says.

But that’s where his size can work to his advantage. It can be tough for a pitcher to throw a strike to a small target, so if that becomes an issue, it can give the Eagles an extra base runner by drawing a walk. Because of that, he often gets perfect pitches to do what he does best.

“Usually when I come in there’s runners on first and second and my job is to get them over,” Turnipseed says. “If he doesn’t throw it down the middle, I pull back or if it’s right down the middle, I try to get it down.”

“He comes in and you expect a guy like that to be tough to throw a strike to and probably be able to bunt,” Hulett says. “But he’s also gone into games and fake bunted and slashed. He’s had success in a lot of different ways for us.”

Turnipseed says he doesn’t try to complicate matters too much. “My job is to do whatever it takes to help the team,” he says. “I’m just to get the bunt down and do what I need to do. I just go up there to have fun and do what I have to do.”

Turnipseed and his Evangel teammates are the No. 6 seed in the Division II playoffs. The Eagles will meet St. Michael’s (Baton Rouge) in the regional round later this week.

Turnipseed says he didn’t expect to make the varsity this year as an eighth grader, but it didn’t come as a surprise to Hulett.

“He’s always played high-level baseball and has had a good level of success,” he says. “We are always looking for guys who can do something to help the team win a game. He’s got a lot of tools that were very intriguing for us right from the get-go.”

But it’s more than just being able to lay down a bunt.

“Any time you bring an eighth grader up to a varsity program, it takes a special kid because they have to be able to fit into the group,” Hulett says. “He’s got to have the right humility and he really embodies everything that we want our guys to have in them as far as toughness and commitment to the team.”

As for being the “little kid” on the team?

“It doesn’t really affect me,” Turnipseed says. “Who cares? It’s all about the heart.”

Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL