Fans of the Washington State Cougars already know how good John Olerud was, but every once in a while, the rest of the country needs to be reminded.
Enter ESPN’s Ryan McGee, who decided to shine a spotlight back on Olerud with a relatively brief feature today, calling him “the greatest two-way player in the history of college baseball.”
It starts off with this anecdote:
Here is how great John Olerud was in college.
Every week during practice, the Washington State baseball team ran the Ole (pronounced “Oh-lee”) Drill. The beanpole underclassman would step into the batter’s box while his Cougars teammates took their positions in the field. As pitches were hurled toward Olerud at the plate, head coach Bobo Brayton would loudly growl out the situations he wanted his defense to practice.
“Hot grounder through the six-hole!”
Olerud would meet the ball with a downward stroke that sent a worm-burner just past the outstretched glove of the shortstop.
“Double over your heads and off the left-center-field wall!”
Olerud would stroke a slow-rising glider that outran the outfielders — and indeed ricocheted off the wall in left-center.
Brayton would keep going.
“Infield fly between the mound and first! Baltimore chop toward third! Opposite-fielder down into the corner!”
“It was the craziest damn thing I’ve ever seen,” recalls Dave Wainhouse, who played with Olerud at Washington State and played against him in both high school and in the majors. “Whatever Bobo said to do, no matter how crazy, John just did it. I can’t remember a time when he missed. You would catch yourself just watching him. And that happened all the time, not just in practice. During games too. That’s how good he was.”
The story highlights Olerud’s incredible prowess as a player, but it also describes Olerud’s journey to fight back from a potentially fatal brain aneurism in college, and also notes the recent loss of Olerud’s special-needs daughter, Jordan, who died of complications from a rare chromosome disorder at the beginning of March.
Olerud is a Coug we all can be proud of, and it’s always good to see his story told again to a larger audience.
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