BY PEDRO VELAZCO KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — Western’s Judson Quinn and Devon Eaker recently signed to continue their athletic careers in college. Eaker will play baseball at Owens Community College in Ohio, and Quinn is headed to play tennis at Trine University.
Quinn liked the small, NCAA Division III college in Indiana’s northeast corner, noting good experiences when visiting the players, and sitting in on classes. And the recruiting process made him feel comfortable.
”Their coach [Ryan] Gould, within days of being eligible to be recruited by NCAA coaches, he called me. The entire process from when I was eligible ‘til I signed he was always in contact,” Quinn said. “Venturing out and taking the step from high school to college, it helped my decision that he really cares and wants me to be there. I think some people when they talk about why they prefer small schools over big schools, they feel like they’re a statistic. At Trine I feel like I’m Judson Quinn, not just one student out of 25,000.”
Quinn was 17-2 as the Panther No. 1 singles player as a senior. He feels like he can fit in with the team on the court.
”Hitting with the team, I think I have the potential to step in and be part of their top group that plays, kind of like the varsity,” he said. “I really like the idea of being able to contribute to the team as a freshman. Another thing I really liked, the coach Ryan Gould, he doesn’t micromanage. We were talking about playing style, and he said ‘if you’re more of a baseline player, play from the baseline.’ He doesn’t want to alter my game.”
Western coach Andrew Miller said Quinn will get even better in college as he hasn’t “maxed out his potential yet.”
”He’s definitely quicker on the court, movement is something he does very well, he’s also a very good groundstroker, particularly on the forehand side,” Miller said. “I’d also say he’s smart, and that’s an area he’s grown in each year, freshman, sophomore, junior, he’s learned the game more as he’s studied it.”
Quinn plans to study math education, leaning toward being a teacher in the future, or an athletic director, coach or school administrator. It runs in the family. His father Scott teaches fifth grade at Sycamore, mother Janelle teaches third grade at Western, grandmother Julie Quinn teaches fourth grade at Western, and grandmother Shirley Moore taught home economics at Maple Crest.
He was picked as one of two recipients of Trine’s Franks School of Education Scholarship, which will pay for a large chunk of his schooling.
A situation aligned perfectly to get Eaker a shot to play at Owens. New Western skipper Quentin Brown, previously an assistant with the squad and Western grad, helped Eaker over the summer when the outfielder came to him with his desire to play in college.
They looked at about 10 opportunities, started whittling things down, then Brown put out a call to his former IPFW teammate Devin Taylor, the coach at Owens CC.
“I called my buddy and said I’ve got a guy for you I think you’ll like,” Brown said. “Devon went up for a visit, loved it and verballed a week after that. I know the kind of coach he is, the kind of guy he is and Devon is right up coach Taylor’s alley.”
It was an instant fit.
“Everything, the school, it just felt right,” Eaker said. “The people there are great, coach is an amazing guy, he knows a lot about baseball and I feel there’s a lot I can learn from him.
“I liked the class sizes and I talked to some of the professors and they seemed really helpful. The program really seems to be moving in the right direction. Last year they were one game away from going to the world series, and they recruited a lot of talent that’s going to be there with me next year and it sounds like it’s going to be an exciting time.”
Eaker plans to study criminal justice. He hit .284, and scored 24 runs last season. He was also a starter on Western’s state champion squad in 2012. He hopes to make an impact as a freshman at the two-year college.
“Coach Brown said he’s really close with coach Taylor and that they really like the real aggressive, real upbeat kind of guys,” Eaker said. “I guess that’s how I am, I’m always real vocal, always trying to help everybody.”
Brown described Eaker as “a real baseball guy. He lives it and breathes it. He just loves the game and because of that he’s an extremely coachable kid. He might be a little bit smaller in stature, but his heart and his play on the field is a lot bigger than that.”