Archive for Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sweet home Alabama

Volk brothers to reunite next spring at Division I program

June 27, 2007

John Volk hasn't played baseball with his younger brother Daniel in two years.

The brothers grew up playing tee ball together, but for the past two years, John has played at Allen County Community College, while Daniel just graduated from Tonganoxie High in May.

Next spring, the Volk brothers will have the opportunity to reunite on the baseball field at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, an NCAA Division I school in Conference USA. They announced their signings Thursday at the THS library.

John, a left-handed pitcher, will receive a scholarship. Daniel, a center fielder, will be an invited walk-on.

"I love the idea of him coming with me," John said of Daniel. "We always planned it. We talked about me going to a juco, then going Division I, and he'd come right out of high school. I wasn't sure if it was going to come true, but it worked out."

John chose UAB over various smaller D-I schools and bigger D-2 schools. He said he also received attention from Kansas State and Mississippi. Daniel chose UAB over Washburn, Ottawa, Park University and Kansas City Kansas Community College.

"I'm going to have to walk on and it's Division I, so I'm going to have to work really hard," Daniel said. "I really like their program."

Daniel was a Lawrence Journal-World first-team all area selection in 2006, and a first-team all-Kaw Valley selection last season.

"With his speed, he'll be a great center fielder who can bunt, hit and run," Tonganoxie High coach Phil Loomis said of Daniel. "Athletes like that are very rare. With his athleticism, you could ask him to do anything and he could use his skills to do it."

Loomis said offensively, Daniel would fit in nicely as a No. 2 hitter at the Division I level. He hit third at THS.

As for John, he was a first-team all Jayhawk Conference selection last season for Allen County. He went 4-3 with a 3.25 earned run average. He shut out Fort Scott twice. John had 60 strikeouts in 55 innings last season. Allen County went 31-21 and lost to Garden City in the first round of regionals. John won game one for Allen County, but the Red Devils dropped the second two in the best-of-three series.

John said Allen County initially signed him as a work in progress. His mechanics vastly improved, even in his first season with Red Devils. John pitched 45 innings with a 1.50 ERA -- the lowest on the team -- during his freshman season.

When John left Tonganoxie, the fastest pitch he threw topped out at 87 miles per hour. He can now hit 92 mph.

"My fastball is my go-to pitch," John said. "I work in the upper-80's generally."

UAB went 25-33 (12-12 conference) in 2007. John said he would anticipate having a spot in the Blazers starting rotation next spring.

He will look to improve a UAB staff that recorded the fewest strikeouts in Conference USA last season. UAB pitchers also had the second-fewest wins and issued the most walks in the conference.

"I can't wait to see how it goes," John said. "I know the competition's a whole lot better. It's a huge step up. I mean, there are kids on this team we lost to the (major league baseball) draft."

Zealous Wheeler, of Wallace State (Ala.) Community College, was supposed to play at UAB, but the Milwaukee Brewers selected the third baseman in the 19th round (581 overall) of this year's draft. Wheeler would have been John's roommate.

"No hard feelings," John said. "I'd be going, too. That's the ultimate goal -- to get to the next level."

So does John think he has MLB potential?

"A lefty in the bottom 90's, there's always a possibility," he said.

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