Baseball: Jonny Ash
Jonny Ash has always had to go the extra mile in life, and it's been no different during his Stanford baseball career. The junior third baseman has worked his way back into the starting lineup after a lengthy stretch of time spent primarily on the Cardinal bench.
Ash actually found a spot as the team's designated hitter late in his freshman season, hitting .327 with 24 RBI in 110 at bats, while making 25 starts and playing in 44 contests. But, then came his sophomore year when Ash just didn't get much of a chance. His name was not written into the starting lineup even once and he picked up just 24 at bats in 23 games off the bench, hitting .250 with six RBI.
'He's didn't do anything wrong last year, but there just wasn't any spot to play him,' explained Stanford head coach Mark Marquess. 'But, the key is to work hard in practice, stay ready and be able to perform when you do get a chance.'
Ash did just that. Instead of worry about not being in the lineup, he decided to put his focus into the team concept during his time on the bench and it helped his individual prospects as well.
'We win as a team, and we lose as a team,' explained Ash. 'Coach Marquess makes sure that if you're not playing you're still held somewhat accountable for how the team fares that day. When we're on the bench, we help in any we can to gain an advantage for our team. I really bought into that, and it helped me when I got back out on the field.'
'It was definitely a different experience,' continued Ash. 'I tried to take in as much as I could primarily as an observer.'
Ash also prepared himself by playing baseball last summer for the Manakato Moondogs of the Northwoods League and had a big season, hitting .333 and stealing 10 bases.
'It was important for Jonny to have a good year in summer baseball last year and get lots of playing time in,' confirmed Marquess.'
His chance came at the start of this year when spots opened up like floodgates with Stanford's entire starting senior infield from 2002 graduated.
Ash earned a spot as the opening day second baseman but struggled early and was hitting just .125 through the team's first nine games. Then, a shoulder injury took him out of action for two weeks. When he returned, he found himself back in the same role he found himself in last year as a left-handed pinch hitter.
'I realized that we weren't playing that well during the time I was injured,' said Ash. 'Although I knew the coaches would probably do something to stir up the lineup and get us back on the right track, my mindset was just to do whatever I could do to help the team. It helped me knowing that I was still contributing in a small way and also shook me up to know that when I did get a chance again, I needed to take advantage of it.'
When Ash got his second chance this year, he definitely took advantage of it. After freshman third baseman Jed Lowrie went into an 0-for-19 tailspin, Ash found himself back in the lineup for the first time in just under a month when the Cardinal hosted California on March 8, this time at third base.
'Being versatile as an infielder is extremely important,' said Ash. 'When I wasn't in the lineup, I was always working out at all three positions (second base, shortstop, third base). If you get a chance, you've got to be able to play any infield position. I was always trying to stay ready.'
Ash posted back-to-back two-hit games against the Golden Bears in his first two days back in the lineup and has hit safely in all seven starts since, going 12-for-31 (.387) to raise his batting average to a season-high .276.
Ash credits his father Wil, a college baseball player at California from 1971-74, with helping him through some of the tough times.
'My Dad really helped me,' confirmed Ash. 'He was able to know what to say to help my confidence and help me mentally prepare myself. He just told me to always be ready, believe in yourself and know that you are capable of playing at this level.'
'I've always been one of the smallest guys on the teams I have played on,' continued Ash. 'I've always had to go the extra mile to help prepare myself and succeed in baseball. I know that if I continue to work hard, I'll be ready to contribute when my opportunities arise.'
His contributions are being felt.