Hoots' Kuhn shouldering workload in busy year

Hannibal Hoots' Nathan Kuhn fires the ball to first base during a game against the Springfield Sliders Wednesday at QU Stadium.
Mathew Kirby/Courier-Post
By Mat Mikesell, Hannibal Courier-Post Sports Editor
Posted: Jul. 25, 2019 12:02 pm

QUINCY, Ill. – Nathan Kuhn’s first plan went awry.

He made sure the second plan went better.

Kuhn, an infielder for the Hannibal Hoots, originally enrolled at Ohio University as a freshman with the intention to walk-on to the baseball team. When he didn’t get a roster spot, he elected to play for the club baseball team.

"You just get a group of guys together," Kuhn said. "We had seniors as the coaches. I played that for a year and decided I wanted to play real collegiate baseball."

Kuhn had several colleges recruiting him in high school, but Ohio was the only NCAA Division I school and he wanted the opportunity to play at the highest level. When that didn’t develop, he reached out to the other schools that had shown interest.

His first call was to Southwest Minnesota State University, a Division II school in Marshall, Minn. The campus is a 3 ½-hour drive from his hometown of Eagan, Minn., which is a southern suburb of the Twin Cities.

"I wanted to come home," Kuhn said. "I wanted to play somewhere with structure. I emailed them and asked if they had any spots."

Kuhn visited the campus during Ohio’s winter break, and he was offered a roster spot right away.

It ended up being a perfect fit for Kuhn. He just hoped he’d get the opportunity, and was worried schools wouldn’t be interested.

"It wasn’t too bad actually because I think the competition in club ball is better than people give credit for," Kuhn said. "There is guys throwing in the mid to upper 80s, and we see that in my conference all the time.

"It’s really just the workload."

In club ball, the team practiced about once a week, and even then practices weren’t always with a full roster because of class schedules and other conflicts. At Southwest Minnesota State, Kuhn practices nearly every day.

"I had to get back into that flow since I hadn’t seen that since high school," Kuhn said. "It was tough at the start, but you just get back and comes back naturally."

Kuhn has continued that workload with the Hoots this summer as the team’s every day middle infielder. In 31 games, Kuhn is 20 for 92 (.217) with nine RBIs. However, Hoots manager Clayton Hicks said he makes a difference defensively.

"I think he got mad at me because I told him he’s a better second baseman than a shortstop," Hicks said. "I didn’t mean it as a clap on him, it just means he plays a really good second base. He’s filled in every role we needed and he works hard."

That work ethic allowed Kuhn to make the switch from club ball to Division II baseball.

He doesn’t mind the extra work that comes with it.

"Not at all," he said. "This is my first summer collegiate league and the league is really good competition that will help me out (in the spring)."

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