LOOKING IN: Pitcher Josh Spears is expected to have an impact for Union on the baseball diamond this spring.
Courtesy Union Baseball
Josh Spears fits the mold of a role model baseball player.
A team captain, the Union senior is an ace on the mound, excels in the classroom and inspires young players.
Spears can make clutch plays. He helped the Redskins in a 7-6 comeback win against Bishop Kelley in eight innings earlier this season, a game that was part of their own tournament.
Kelley owned a 6-2 lead early and led 6-5 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. Spears hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield, allowing a run to score and tie the game. Union would get its victory on an RBI base hit in the eighth.
Spears was 7-0 last year on the mound in junior varsity games. The momentum has carried over in his 3-0 start with the varsity so far this year.
“Being able to pitch well last year and getting to throw a lot of games definitely gives you a lot of confidence, just knowing you can pitch against the best of them and get people out,” Spears says.
Opposing batters often find themselves having to guess what’s coming at them when Spears throws.
“I’m a pretty confident pitcher. I throw a lot of strikes,” Spears says. “I know that if I was a hitter getting ready to face a pitcher throwing a lot of strikes, I would be ready to go. Another one of my strengths is I have three good pitches with the fastball, curveball and a change-up. As a hitter, they wouldn’t be able to know what to expect from each pitch since I’ve got a lot of things to keep hitters off-balance.
What always helps, Spears says, is having a good defense behind him and a good offense scoring runs.
He is also excited about what the Redskins can do in 2017.
“I think, as a team, we hit really well,” Spears says. “We have a good offense and at any stage in the game, we can explode and get a lot of runs. We’re never out of the game. We’re also very fast and can cause havoc on the bases, and we also have a good pitching staff. We really get stuff done with a good infield and a good outfield, and pitchers can throw confidently and shut people down. All around, we’re a good team.
“We’re real close to each other, we play for each other and fight for each other,” Spears says. “I’m super excited about this team. We have a ton of talent, and I really believe we’re going to play deep into May this year.”
If there is any validation, the Redskins got off to a hot start playing in a tournament over spring break in Florida. They beat Second Baptist SChool 5-3 on March 14, a game in which Spears pitched the full seven innings and got his third win of the year (3-0).
The Houston private school’s team is coached by former Major League Baseball standouts Lance Berkman (head coach) and Andy Pettitte (pitching coach).
The Redskins improved their record to 4-0 at that point and remained unbeaten at 6-0 as of March 15 as they were in the middle of a trip in Florida.
Spears is 4.0 student and is also involved with the Union High School orchestra, where he plays the cello. He was also runner-up as Mr. Union in early March. Keeping his activities balanced can be a chore, though.
He says, “The key to balance is having to prioritize academics because that’s really what is most important to me and what’s most important in the long run, because if you don’t take care of stuff in the classroom first, you’re not going to be able to perform well out on the field. You also can’t play out here if you’re ineligible. You’ve got to focus, not procrastinate and get studies done ahead of time.”
Spears hopes to play baseball in college but has yet decide where he’ll be going. Academics will be an important factor in his decision-making, he says.
While he is still at Union, he hopes to be an influence on the younger players.
“I try to talk to them as much as I can about everything the Union Redskins baseball program is all about, which is working hard, taking care of grades, listening to the coaches and buying into the program,” Spears says.
And he gets good feedback.
“Being able to juggle all that I’m in, I’ve had people tell me that it’s really cool and it takes a lot of commitment and it’s a good example to lead by,” Spears says.
“It’s been a real honor to represent this program the best that I can, because I’m always trying to represent Union baseball this year. This is a real good group of guys that deserve a lot. I know we’ll be playing deep in the season this year and go a long ways,” Spears adds.