Gushue an extension of Mike Zunino
Mike Zunino may be on campus this week, but there is a new big man on campus as far as Florida Gators baseball players go.
Taylor Gushue, a 6-foot-2, 205-pounder, is slated to start at the most important position on the team, catcher, filling the big cleats left behind by Zunino, the third overall player chosen in last June’s draft.
He essentially will be an extension of Zunino.
“I think that sitting behind Mike was one of the best things that I could have done for my career,” Gushue said. “To get to see him work in different situations and perform the way he performed and learn the way he did and to provide that example for me, I think it was the best thing that I could have done.”
Gushue is a sophomore but likely among the youngest sophomores on campus. He skipped the spring semester of his senior year of high school a year ago to enroll in classes at UF. He was able to join the team last season, playing in 53 games — including 39 starts — against college competition instead of against high schoolers at Calvary Christian Academy in Boca Raton, Fla.
Like Zunino, he’s personable and a fantastic interview.
“Definitely compared to last year it’s been a lot more fluid. It’s been a lot more looser coming in,” Gushue said. “I already know all of the guys on the team so those relationships I’ve had since last year. Last year was hard getting to know everybody all at once. Getting to know the system and the coaches and just how everything worked.
“I feel a whole lot more prepared.”
The teammates Gushue knows best, of course, are the pitchers. He has received countless pitches from each of them to know exactly what the break is on each curve ball or the movement on a running fastball or even the mental approach those guys need to be effective pitchers. He caught two of them — Daniel Gibson and Bobby Poyner — while playing with the Madison (Wisc.) Mallards in the Northwoods League this summer.
“Definitely learning every single of the pitchers and their sign sets,” Gushue said. “Just how to handle them — their personality specifically when they’re on the mound during the game. It’s my job to make sure they’re the most comfortable they can possibly be to where they feel comfortable to where they can throw strikes and they can perform the best they can perform.”
Another thing Gushue has worked on improving is receiving the ball and getting it out of his glove quicker on throws down to second base. He’s also changed his mental approach, which he said led to a late-season let down for him a year ago. He batted .206 in all games combined but only .143 in SEC play.
A high school baseball team plays half as many games as a college team. The daily grind of staying punched in mentally and physically throughout a 57-game season is something most true freshman grapple with, especially one who should still be in high school.
“I think for the most part I think it was me getting a little bit burnt out,” Gushue said. “I think this year I’m a lot more prepared for it. I just wasn’t prepared last year.
“Mentally, I know what a grind it is this year. I think working hard and working smart are two different things. Definitely working smart this year instead of just working flat-out hard.”
Gushue has spent time working on his offense with a swing specialist over the winter break and with the Gators’ coaches during the offseason. He still doesn’t believe he’s “anywhere close to where I need to be,” but his swing has gotten better.
Most of all, he’s more prepared because of the example set by Zunino a year ago. He learned how to be the best from the best and how much of an asset a quality catcher can be to a team’s success.
“Just to see the way (Zunino) handled the game in certain situations and the way he controlled the pitching staff,” Gushue said. “How he was an extension of Sully (coach Kevin O’Sullivan) on the field. I think that was one of the greatest things that I learned from him.
“I think it’s my job to get ready this year and to be an extension of Sully on the field, just like he was.”
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2014 Football Commits
|Davidson (NC) Day|
|Cross City (Fla.) Dixie County|
|Jacksonville (Fla). Raines|
|Deland (Fla.) High|
|New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine|
|Miami (Fla.) Central|
|Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas|
|Northridge (Al.) Tuscaloosa|
|Immokalee (Fla.) High|
|Casper (Wy.) Natrona County|
2013 Basketball Commits
|Clermont (Fla.) Montverde Academy|
|Bonifay (Fla) Holmes County|
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