Going from back-up to starter can be a difficult transition. But replacing a great creates even more pressure.
Commodores catcher Troy Claunch is preparing to take over the catcher spot previously held by Baltimore Orioles’ first overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft Adley Rutschman.
In 2019, Rutschman, the former OSU catcher from Portland, Oregon batted .411 with 17 home runs and 58 RBIs in the PAC-12, one of the toughest conference for baseball in the NCAA.
The 2019 Golden Spikes Award winner clearly left a legacy and now it’s time for a new face to take the reigns behind the dish.
For Troy Claunch, baseball seemed to come naturally since he was little.
“When he was three-years-old or so, and he grabbed his window dowel and started swinging,” Troy’s dad, Stan Claunch, said. “I started throwing little mush balls to him while I was watching TV and he would just swing it and hit the ball.”
As Claunch grew up his little rod he hit bouncy balls with eventually turned into a metal bat that crushed baseballs at the parks in Vacaville, California.
“In little league, I pitched a lot, played shortstop, but I always wanted to catch,” Troy Claunch said. “Starting at eight, I started to catch and pitch a lot, but my twelve-year-old year of little league is when I started to develop my love of catching.”
Through travel ball and skill development Claunch noticed he had the potential to play Division One baseball.
“It wasn’t until eighth grade when I started to realize there was something here,” the six-foot 196-pound catcher said. “I started to see how I played against my competition and my peers in my local areas and took that against other teams even across the country.”
Claunch played at Vacaville High School where he was the captain of the baseball and football teams. Not only did Claunch have a good pop time in high school, but he could sling the football into the end zone as Vacaville’s starting quarterback.
The northern Californian had what it took to be a star catcher for any school, it was just a matter of where he would attend college.
“We were thinking any place to go and play college baseball would be an awesome thing no matter what, DI or D-five,” Stan Claunch said. “He had his top five picked out and Oregon State was probably number one, if not a close second. On the ride back from OSU he said, ‘This is where I belong.'”
Troy Claunch was headed to Corvallis, Oregon to become an Oregon State Beaver, but little did he know his freshman year would be magical.
In his first season, Claunch batted .321 with 10 RBIs in 23 games played. He saw some catching time, but the star there was still Adley Rutschman.
But, Claunch got to experience something he would never forget in 2018: a College World Series Championship.
“Going in I knew we would be good,” Claunch said with goosebumps on his arm beginning to appear. “That whole entire season we broke on finish because we wanted to finish what was started the year before. Obviously, after we won, we had a full parade in downtown Portland with police escorts and limos. We showed up to our stadium filled with people and drove the limos onto the field and had this big, old celebration on the field. It was unbelievable.”
Claunch’s sophomore season didn’t end with a national championship, but he still ended the year with 44 more at-bats and ten more hits than his freshman season.
But some of the most important lessons Claunch learned came from the every day catcher Adley Rutschman.
“Getting to see what he did was unbelievable,” Claunch said about the first overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. “He is one of the greatest athletes I’ve ever seen. He is one of the most composed people I’ve ever met and just relax.”
“It has been cool to see him develop and grow, even though he is only a year behind me,” Rutschman said about Claunch. “He has really improved a lot. One of the most noticeable things is how he handles himself on the field and how to control a staff and help everyone around him.”
Claunch and Rutschman have developed a strong friendship through their time at Oregon State. They still talk to each other often continuing their solid relationship.
“I guess for me I don’t get in awe because he is one of my friends,” Claunch said. “I spent every day with him at the field. It was a bit unfortunate for me. I didn’t get to play as much as I liked to. But if I wasn’t going to play, that was the ideal situation.”
“He is one of the most selfless people I know,” Rutschman said. “His ability to be a good teammate and to help others has grown on me. I’m very impressed with him as a person.”
Now the rising junior and potential starting catcher at Oregon State is taking his first major steps towards a career in Major League Baseball by playing with the Falmouth Commodores. The same team Adley Rutschman played for before tearing up the PAC-12 in 2018.
“I told him Falmouth is the best place on the Cape and the Cape was a phenomenal league,” Rutschman said to Claunch before he arrived in Massachusetts. “I told him it was going to be an unforgettable summer. I knew he was going to have a phenomenal time Trundy and the coaching staff.”
Next spring may be different in Corvallis with no Adley Rutschman, but it’s time for someone new. It’s time for Troy Claunch.
“He didn’t leave many awards for anybody else to win,” Claunch said jokingly. “I don’t think I’m going to try and fill his shoes at all. I’m going to be my own person. I’m not going to try and be Adley Rutschman. I’m going to be Troy Claunch.”
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Maxwell Trink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @MaxwellTrink.