Aaron Ochsenbein, a graduate student, begins his day like most other students. Except for him, the mornings usually start a lot earlier. Ochsenbein is a baseball player and dedicates most of his day to the sport.
Most days, he gets up to weightlift early before class and goes to practice right after. “This fall we’ve been mainly in the afternoon, we’ve had a few morning lifts … It’s anywhere from 8 o’clock to 10 o’clock … and then we’ll all go to class, we’ll have practice in the afternoon at like 3 o’clock. That’ll be about 2 or 3 hours of throwing, running, batting practice, taking ground balls, and communicating.”
For Ochsenbein, baseball is less of a sport and more of a way of life.
“I’ve grown up playing so I just love the sport. I love playing around with all my friends, teammates, and coaches,” Ochsenbein said.
He said that his favorite part of playing baseball was being part of a team and the camaraderie he has with his teammates, “We hang out on the field, off the field. We basically do everything together, it’s like a little brotherhood.”
“I guess the only part I don’t like is how time consuming it is,” Ochsenbein said. “But I mean, that comes with the sport and I just love it.”
Having played baseball in high school as well as college, Ochsenbein notes that the main difference is the higher level of competition, “it’s a lot tougher in college. In high school it’s more laid back. You just kind of show up to practice, do your thing, and then you leave. But in college it’s more of a grind,” Ochsenbein said.
Ochsenbein also noted that his status as a graduate student hasn’t really affected his baseball career. According to him, the main difference between playing baseball as a graduate student rather than at the undergraduate level is only a slightly elevated course load.
While Ochsenbein did play baseball for EKU throughout his undergraduate career, extenuating circumstances allowed him to play through his graduate years.
EKU’s head baseball coach, Edwin Thompson, said Ochsenbein was injured during his freshman year and had to sit out of the action for a season.
“I got here in 2015 and he got here in 2014,” Thompson said. “He was a redshirt, he played half of the year his freshman year before he got hurt, then he had surgery that summer so he missed the entire 2016 season. So, 2017 was his first full season, last year was his second, and this year will be his third full season of playing. Technically, the NCA has allowed him to play a sixth year, but I think he’ll have the opportunity, if things work out, to play professional baseball after this year.”
Overall, Thompson thinks very highly of Ochsenbein, “Typically pitchers are not considered to be good athletes, but he’s an above average athlete. He could go on to play sports at some level, recreational at least.”
Thompson also spoke of Ochsenbein’s leadership with the younger players and his experience as team captain the last two years, “He’s a veteran. He’s been here, he’s seen it for 5 years. I think when you have that experience you definitely have a different perspective on things than just a younger freshman or a sophomore … He’s been a presence, I think, and he has very good leadership qualities … Everyone kind of looks up to him.”
Thompson said he sees improvement in Ochsenbein over the years, from his perseverance with the sport to his drive to keep practicing, even though he was hurt.
“His first year, he was rehabbing. After surgery sometimes it takes a little time to kind of get things back to where they were, but since then he’s been trending upward. He really has improved, he’s worked at it. There’s times when he’s out there by himself just throwing a ball into a net. That tells you about his character and who he is. He knows what he had to do … he had the self-discipline to do that.”
Coach Thompson also stressed while, although many of the coaches are to thank for the development of such a promising player, Ochsenbein can attribute most of his success to his own hard work. “He’s established himself as one of the better players in the country and so I think that’s a tribute to him and the work that he’s done.”
Ochsenbein said that the baseball team’s fall practice has just come to a close, and they will be beginning the spring season right after Valentine’s Day. Beginning now, Ochsenbein and his teammates are entering the individual practice phase of their training.
“Fall practice is like a big team … it’s our 2 and a half to 3 hour practices. Individuals are more player-coach oriented, it’s more one-on-one. So, for me as a pitcher, it’s more bullpen stuff, working on mechanics, different pitches, stuff like that.”
Ochsenbein has a promising outlook for this upcoming season, “I think we’re going to be really good. There’s a lot of new faces, but we’re all gelling along pretty well together. We play a lot of home games which is pretty exciting as well. I love the new stadium. It’s a great environment, I’m excited for it, ready to go.”
“Come out and see him pitch in the spring,” Thompson said. “He’s an exciting player to come watch. He’s a special talent. We have some good players here and he’s one of those kids who if you have a chance to come out and watch, it would be definitely worth your while.”