By Austin Chappell
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
High school graduates have a multitude of decisions to make after they walk across the podium, with the main question being where they will continue their education.
High school athletes also have the added pressure of earning a scholarship and going to school for free.
However, Oklahoma State’s Jason Hursh wasn’t just awarded a diploma and an athletic scholarship upon graduation; he was also given a check worth nearly a million dollars.
“Having to choose between money and education was one of the hardest decisions of my life,” Hursh said. “Luckily, I have two great parents and a great family who helped me make my decision.”
After a high school career filled with awards and honors, Hursh was drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was given the choice of a professional career with a six-figure signing bonus or an education and a spot on the Oklahoma State pitching staff.
But before the draft and before any college interest, Hursh began a long line of choices that would eventually bring him to where he stands now.
Hursh began his varsity baseball career at Trinity Christian Academy, a private school in Dallas that traditionally beefs up its non-conference schedule against the best public schools in the area, but is left facing the less competitive TAPPS private school division once district play begins.
Up until his senior year, Hursh focused most of his time in the cage and taking ground balls at shortstop. He pitched from time to time, putting up impressive numbers on the mound while maintaining a .346 batting average over the course of this junior year. Still, he felt like his future would be in between second and third base, and not on the mound.
“I really didn’t start focusing or getting into pitching until my senior year,” Hursh said. “I didn’t know anything about pitching like I do now. Putting my time into pitching really kind of turned things around for me, though.”
So, after the first of many decisions in his baseball career, Hursh took his talents to the pitching mound and delivered several stellar performances during his senior year. He finished up the season with an 11-2 record, striking out 123 batters and leading the TCA squad to the state semifinals.
The Pirates and Oklahoma State immediately began calling, and the decision of school or money took over the top spot in Hursh’s mind. However, with a dad that played college football and a family that values education, Hursh had some leeway when it came to his final conclusion.
“OSU seemed like the perfect fit for me, even before I got drafted,” Hursh said. “I have always loved everything about Stillwater and the OSU campus.”
Hursh joined the Cowboys, and his career as a collegiate pitcher began. Yet, after such an illustrious high school career, his Cowboy pitching campaign didn’t start off with the best of luck.
Sickness during his freshman year limited Hursh to only 10 appearances, and nagging arm pain left Hursh sidelined for months following Tommy John surgery.
After nearly a year of rehabilitation, Hursh decided to mix things up a bit. With a mid-90’s fastball, Hursh relied on his velocity for a majority of his pitching career. He decided things needed to change if he wanted to gain an extra edge on Big 12 hitters.
Oklahoma State pitching coach Rob Walton said Hursh’s current success stems from the pitcher’s newfound confidence in his offspeed pitches.
“Jason has worked really hard on cleaning up his delivery and becoming a pitcher,” Walton said. “He isn’t just a hard-throwing guy with a great arm anymore.”
As of May 13, the Cowboys hold a 36-13 record with Hursh at the top of the pitching helm. The right-hander has accumulated a 5-4 record as the Cowboys’ ace, and his 74 strikeouts are the third-most in the conference.
Hursh also recently delivered one of his most impressive starts of his career in a 4-3 victory over OU. After back-to-back losses, the sophomore helped the Cowboys win their Bedlam battle with a 134-pitch complete game victory in a game that held season-defining implications for an OSU squad battling through Big 12 play.
After several life-changing decisions, Hursh finally believes he is at the top of his game.
And with the series victory over the Sooners, Hursh believes the Cowboys can make a late season push to put the team in position to win its first conference tournament since 2004.
“I’ve never been on a team with as good of a chemistry and work ethic that we have here,” Hursh said. “We have played much better as a team this year, and I look forward to seeing what we can do in the tournament.”