Small College Sports

Johns Hopkins: Brainpower and baseball power

Elite Baltimore university has a fine team in Cedar Rapids for NCAA D-III World Series

Johns Hopkins’ Tim Kutcher celebrates his game-winning 2-run double in the 10th inning of his team’s 7-6 NCAA Division III Baseball World Series win over Babson College Friday at Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids. (Johns Hopkins athletics website)
Johns Hopkins’ Tim Kutcher celebrates his game-winning 2-run double in the 10th inning of his team’s 7-6 NCAA Division III Baseball World Series win over Babson College Friday at Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids. (Johns Hopkins athletics website)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Maybe you’d like to play for the Cubs or Cardinals or Yankees or Dodgers.

But it wouldn’t be too bad a deal to be a baseball player for the Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays of Baltimore. Because that means chances are pretty good you’d be doing well long after your baseball career was done.

“I’ve made the statement that I probably have more doctors out in the world than any other baseball coach in America,” said Johns Hopkins’ Bob Babb, whose 40th year as the Jays’ coach is concluding with an appearance in the NCAA Division III World Series at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “Then,” said Babb, “I have a lot of players on Wall Street, players who are engineers.

“Seventy percent of our players are STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) kids, with about 60 percent of our players engineers. I think there’s definitely a relationship between engineering and the way the mind thinks math-wise in baseball. I really, truly think that.”

Here are some of the majors of Hopkins’ ballplayers: biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, computer science, political science, physics.

Starting right fielder Chris DeGiacomo is pursuing a master’s degree in finance. Pitcher Jack Bunting, who brought a 13-0 record to Cedar Rapids, has interned with the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. Starting left fielder Tim Kutcher, whose two-run double in the bottom of the 10th inning capped a three-run rally and gave Hopkins a 7-6 win over Babson in Friday’s first round, has created a statistics program for his school’s baseball program.

“In the dugout before the bottom of the 10th, I was saying to everybody ‘You gotta believe,’” Kutcher said.

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Why would they doubt themselves? Kutcher interned at technology firm Booz Allen Hamilton, where he focused on developing an off-grid communications app. He’s been a head teaching assistant for data structures at Hopkins. Those sound like things that build self-confidence.

Hopkins is an elite university, and it has a baseball team that took a 36-11 record into its Saturday night winners’ bracket game against Birmingham-Southern. The two things aren’t unrelated, Babb said.

“These are intelligent, mature young men driven to succeed in life,” he said. “These guys want to be the best at everything. They want to be the best students, the best ping pong players, the best pizza eaters. They’re really driven in whatever they do.

“It’s fun to be around them because they want to succeed and have a good work ethic. Usually, you combine a willingness to work hard and a desire to be successful, and you’re going to get pretty good results.”

Friday’s win was Babb’s 1,173rd at Hopkins. His team has players from 14 states and a Canadian province. They can play. Through Friday, they had a Division III-high 81 home runs, were second in walks, and fifth in runs per game. They’re also flexible.

Josh Hejka was Babb’s starting pitcher Friday. It was his third start of the season after setting the school’s career record for saves. He is a bespectacled submariner. He threw 152 — yes, 152 — pitches against Babson of Massachusetts, and looked like he could have kept throwing all night.

“He is not orthodox,” Babb said.

Neither is a team with a player (Mike Ainsworth) who was a national chess champion. Or a player (Seamus Ryan-Johnson) who is a cadet in JHU’s Army ROTC. Or a player (Brad Parsons)who is an emergency department volunteer and also has been involved in sleep research.

This is Hopkins’ fourth World Series appearance. It’s chasing its first championship.

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“This team has really, really, really overachieved and has worked really hard to be here,” said Babb, a 1977 Hopkins graduate. “So I hope things work out for us.”

You kind of think they will, whether they win the title or not.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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