By John Shinn
Garrett Buechele admits he can be annoying.
“I’ve always been a curious kid,” the Oklahoma third baseman said. “When I was little I was always asking my dad, ‘Why is this going on? Why is this happening?’ I just want to be in the loop. It helps me understand the game more.”
When there’s a runner on base and OU coach Sunny Golloway calls for a hit-and-run instead of a bunt, Buechele wants to know why. He wants to know more about everything.
The questions come constantly, but the coaches never looked at it as an annoyance.
“He’s not second-guessing me,” Golloway said. “He just has a vast knowledge of the game and he wants more. I’ve never taken any offense to it. It’s more like I would like the whole club to be.”
Getting a whole club of Buechele’s would be tough. Just about every player on OU’s roster grew up playing baseball from the time they were old enough to swing a bat. But few got the early insight Buechele did. His father, Steve, played 11 years in the major leagues with Texas, Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cubs.
Some of his earliest memories are being in big league clubhouses with father. He remembers playful wrestling matches with Sammy Sosa when his father played for the Cubs.
Most of all he remembers trying to figure out the strange game of baseball.
Most of the questions don’t really have answers. How Buechele even wound up at OU involved a quirk.
After a standout career at Arlington (Texas) Lamar High School, he was set to go to Kansas. He liked the school and the town. There was just one thing. The Jayhawks’ coaching staff wanted him to become a catcher.
“To me, that sounded terrible,” Buechele said. “I caught a few games and my knees didn’t really appreciate it.”
Lucky for the Sooners, Norman happened to be on the way home. The Buecheles stopped by the OU baseball offices and talked to Golloway. After a season in redshirt, OU had an everyday third baseman.
Buechele will bring a .352 batting average and 36 RBIs into this weekend’s series against Texas A&M.; There hasn’t been a new player in the lineup who’s made a bigger impact than Buechele. He’s started every game and made only six errors.
“He’s been very consistent,” OU first baseman Aaron Baker said. “He’s been a great guy for us because his attitude is so good. He’s helped us a lot.”
Golloway still kicks himself for not giving Buechele a shot last season. But the player, in retrospect, sees why he needed a season to adjust to the college game.
He was just 17 when he graduated from high school and another year of maturing physically helped. Mentally, however, OU’s coaches saw what they needed to see.
“He knew you needed to get here early and he knows there’s days when you need to stay late,” OU assistant coach Tim Tadlock said. “There’s no doubt he has a very good understanding of the game.”
Making adjustments in baseball is a constant necessity. After just about every game, the third baseman is on the phone with his father. Steve is managing the Rangers’ Class A team in Bakersfield, Calif., but he watches most Sooner games on the Internet. Pointers are given and more knowledge is absorbed.
When it comes to baseball, Buechele can’t wait, for class is always in session.