CEDAR RAPIDS — Levi Usher had plenty of options to continue his baseball career.
The Cedar Rapids Prairie all-stater was one of the one of the top prospects in Iowa and the country that attracted from Major League Baseball scouts. He was recruited by NCAA Division I powers in the Southeastern Conference and had the production to warrant every bit of attention.
But, Usher suffered a broken leg in a football game his senior year, leaving questions on his recovery. Even though he rebounded with impressive numbers, Usher wasn’t satisfied and decided to work on his game at Kirkwood with Coach Todd Rima and staff.
“I didn’t live up to my expectations,” Usher said of his senior season. “I didn’t feel as good. Coming to Kirkwood, I wanted to fix that. I was around good coaches that helped me get stronger in the weight room and develop my swing.
“I think I’ve done what I wanted to do. I’ve definitely become a better player since I was here.”
Usher leads the Eagles in runs, stolen bases and on-base percentage and is tied with a team-best 62 hits entering Sunday’s series home opener against Southeastern Community College. He has an opportunity to enter the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft this summer or play at Louisville next year.
“They seem more interested than last year,” Usher said. “We’ll see after the season. My adviser will get in touch with the scouts more and see what they think.”
Rima said he thought Usher might be an Eagle for one season. He said the staff hoped Usher would progress and entertain various options. Usher has become stronger and is in great shape.
“He deserves it,” Rima said. “He put himself in a great position to have a chance to make the decision by the year he is having.”
Usher has performed well in every aspect, including defense in the outfield. Rima has been impressed with Usher’s patience and discipline at the plate, batting at a .434 clip with a .517 on-base percentage. Usher has 62 hits, including six doubles, three triples and three home runs, with 55 runs and 26 RBIs.
“I haven’t really had a standout game,” Usher said. “I can tell there is a difference pretty much every game.”
Speed has become a weapon that has impacted the Eagles' lineup. Not only has Usher used it for extra-base hits and a team-high 27 stolen bases, Usher can wreak havoc on opposing pitchers and affect the offerings to his teammates.
“He’s been outstanding,” Rima said. “What he does for our lineup at the top, getting on base, stealing bases and having a great approach at the plate has really made a difference.
“Not only does he get himself in scoring position but he changes how people pitch to guys behind him. They don’t want to throw secondary pitches because it gives him a better chance to run, so some of our guys hitting directly behind him will see better pitches and more fastballs.”
Usher's dedication and devotion to the sport has helped with the strides, making the leg injury a distant memory. He has changed his body through training and fine-tuned his swing.
“Levi epitomizes work ethic,” Rima said. “There isn’t a day in practice he doesn’t give us a great effort. It allows him to separate himself from some other guys in the draft.”
l Comments: (319) 368-8679; firstname.lastname@example.org