J.R. Graham, a junior from Livermore, California has been one of the most versatile players on the roster for the Santa Clara baseball team in his three year career. This year, the hard throwing-right handed pitcher has played a key role for the Broncos appearing in 13 games as a reliever and one as a starter. He has a solid 3.86 earned run average (ERA) to go along with his 27 strike outs. Recently, SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCU) spoke with J.R. (JRG) about his high school success and how he has carried it over to the college level.
By: Nick Johnson '13
SCU: You were named the North Coast Section 'Player of the Year' in 2008. What kind of an honor was this for you? How hard did you work that season?
JRG: It was a tremendous honor to be voted NCS Player of the Year. A lot of good players come out of that section every year and to be named the best baseball player was really cool. It was a surprise to me when I got the call and they told me the news. I never thought about getting any type of reward for my efforts on the field. I just went out and had fun, and played baseball. I had worked really hard that season. My dad put together a work-out plan to get me faster and stronger to prepare me for the next level. It was a lot of fun and I wouldn't be where I'm at today without the help from my father and everything he taught me.
SCU: What is the adjustment from high school baseball to college baseball like and what one thing has been hardest for you personally?
JRG: In high school every team has one, maybe two legit players and one legit pitcher. Well in college all those best players from each individual high school are on one team. I could just overmatch guys with my raw talent. I had to learn how to play the game at the college level. I learned how to locate my pitches and how to control myself in tough situations and battle through adversity. But the hardest thing for me was transforming from a thrower to a pitcher.
SCU: What was it like being both a pitcher and a position player for the team here at Santa Clara the past two seasons? Do you enjoy one over the other?
JRG: I have always been a two-way player so it was awesome to be able to play a position and pitch in college. It was a lot of work because I needed to make sure I got my hitting work in along with working in the infield and trying to get pitchers work in, like my bullpens and PFP's (pitchers fielding practice). The coaches did an outstanding job of monitoring me and balancing out everything I was supposed to be doing. I enjoy them both, but I do enjoy pitching more.
SCU: This past offseason, what did you focus on most when preparing for your junior year?
JRG: I focused on staying in control of myself. I would be a mad man out on the mound and wouldn't be able to control myself and the game would speed up on me. I focused on controlling myself and channeling all my energy and craziness and used it to help me pitch and slow the game down.
SCU: What do you enjoy most about playing for the Santa Clara baseball team?
JRG: I enjoy getting to compete against other good teams and being surrounded by a group of great teammates and coaches.
SCU: Off the field, what are some of your hobbies?
JRG: I enjoy watching movies, the occasional golf trip and going out to the lake to do some wake boarding.