Big 12 Campus Correspondent
In baseball, a "five-tool" player is the ultimate description, meaning that player can hit for average, hit for power, possess excellent speed/baserunning skills, is an excellent fielder and has superior throwing ability. But one could argue that Kansas State third baseman Jason King takes that notion one step further by adding excellence in the classroom to the list, making him a "six-tool" player, a rarity in college baseball.
In this day-in-age of college athletics, the term student-athlete is one that is tossed around too loosely. So while fans fill Tointon Family Stadium on gamedays to watch the K-State baseball team, a fraction of those fans get to witness the other side of a collegiate baseball player's life.
For K-State's King, the success does not end when he steps off the field. A marketing major who holds a 3.96 GPA, King is a three-time member of the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll and recently was one of 11 players named to the Capital One Academic All-District VII first team, as announced by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). This marked the second time King has earned first-team honors in his career.
To the average fan, baseball, with its sunflower seed-spitting, lazy Sunday afternoon image, might seem like a relaxing, easy-going activity for any 20 year-old college kid, but most do not realize that it might be the toughest sport, in terms of traveling, that a student-athlete can experience.
And that fact is not lost on Jason King.
"What most people do not realize is that baseball is the probably the hardest sport to play in college, just because of the travel schedule; how many games we play and how often we are leaving and coming back," King noted. "You have just got to manage your time and use the resources that are available."
But if you are looking for excuses, you won't find them when talking to King. You can hear it when he is asked about the origin of his work ethic; he is quick to note those who have helped him with his successes both on the diamond and in the classroom.
"It definitely comes from my dad, my parents, my grandparents and everybody who ever had an influence on me when I was young," said King. "My dad was the same way and he really made it known to me from an early age that this was how it had to be and I really did not have a choice."
While his talents in the classroom come from many different sources, the sources of his athletic talents are easy to pinpoint. His father, Jeffery, played baseball at Ohio State and for the New York Yankees minor league system. While King's grandfather, Frank, played football for four years under legendary head coach Woody Hayes at Ohio State, including being a member of the 1954 National Championship squad.
While being a Buckeye was a King family tradition, Jason signed with K-State after a stellar career at Jerome High School in Dublin, Ohio, where he was named the 2007 Ohio Coaches Player of the Year, Ohio High Magazine Player of the Year, a Second Team All-American by EA Sports, as well as notching three-time all-district and All-Central Ohio selection honors.
Coming to K-State as one of the most touted recruits in program history, King did not disappoint as he made an easy transition to life in the Big 12 as a freshman.
King started off his college career by shining in the classroom and on the field. In addition to being named to the 2008 Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll, he started 49 out of 55 games for head coach Brad Hill and finished in the Top-5 in numerous statistical categories.
He avoided the dreaded "sophomore slump" in 2009 by leading the Wildcats to their first-ever NCAA Regional appearance, while also earning Honorable Mention All-Big 12 after finishing tied for second in the conference in triples, seventh in RBI and tied for 10th in stolen bases. On top of his on-field greatness, he earned First-Team Academic All-Big 12 honors, was an ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District VII selection and was named to Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll.
Last season saw King sidelined due to Tommy John's surgery, but his excellence in the classroom did not suffer as for the third straight year, he was named to the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll.
But King has bounced back this season to return to the Wildcat lineup as the team's everyday third baseman, as well as one of its most consistent hitters. Heading into the final week of the regular season, he leads the team in home runs (9) and RBIs (50), while he is second and fourth, respectively, in the Big 12 in those departments.
It is clear to see that King is not only one of the best students on the K-State squad; he is one of the best athletes. So with one year left in his Wildcat career, he will look to cement his legacy as one of the truly great student-athletes in school history.