05/25/2004 11:09 AM ET
Fields excels on any surface
By Kent Malmros / Special to MLB.com
Josh Fields drives a moped. Seriously.
|According to Baseball America, Josh Fields is the 17th-best player available in the First-Year Player Draft. (courtesy Oklahoma State)
"Well, it's actually classified as a scooter," said Fields in a mock defensive tone.
You can hear the Oklahoma State third baseman, quarterback and possible first-round pick in June's First-Year Player Draft grinning over the phone as he discusses the moped.
He laughs about it because despite his humility, Fields knows where he stands with teammates, fans and scouts alike. He is the kind of player and leader who can get away with driving a moped around campus -- or bleaching his hair several times, including "an Oklahoma State orange hue" -- because he's earned respect where he parks the scooter. On the playing field.
In fact, that Fields owns and drives a moped endears him to others. First-year Cowboys baseball coach Frank Anderson still remembers when he first met Fields. There was his "star," pulling up to practice on his scooter.
"The first time I saw him he was riding a moped," recalled Anderson. "You don't see very many star quarterbacks, or high-profile athletes, riding a moped. Because they wouldn't want to be seen on a moped. But he's pretty unassuming. ... He's such a down-to-earth kid."
Fields can get away with riding a moped around campus because he is humble, despite his pseudo-celebrity status. He's always at practice, despite being pulled in many directions, and he's often the best player on any field where he's practicing or playing, no matter the sport.
"It's kind of fun to see him ride around on his little moped. We make fun of him here and there," said Oklahoma State catcher and likely high draft pick Jason Jaramillio. "But having to walk to class isn't the best, so he's got a good little situation with that scooter."
So if a moped happens to be the preferred means of travel for Oklahoma State's star, who's going to argue? That moped has put him in a position to become a great two-sport athlete.
Fields shuttles between the Cowboys' football and baseball practice facilities, and he's had the opportunity to hone his skills and excel at both. He's put in the work to become, according to Baseball America, the 17th-best player available in June's First-Year Player Draft. And if he were to spend another season in shoulder pads, he could be a marginal NFL prospect as well.
Clearly, the more lucrative future is on the diamond. He's good at just about everything. He fields the ball well, though he needs work on his lateral movement. He's strong-armed and accurate, and he has the potential to play several positions. In fact, scouts are intrigued by the flexibility his athleticism may present. According to Anderson, some have queried him about Fields' potential to play the outfield or even second base.
But Fields' primary attraction is his bat -- specifically, his power.
During his sophomore year, Fields tallied 12 home runs and 55 RBIs. Add his .358 batting average and a 20-game hitting streak, and the native of Stillwater, Okla., has elevated himself to "elite" prospect status.
"He covers the plate very well. You can't just do one thing to him and get him out every time -- he'll make adjustments throughout an at-bat," said Anderson of his slugger. "About the time you think you've got him on a certain part of the strike zone, you'll throw it there, and he'll hit it hard."
Unfortunately, it wasn't only Anderson and the scouts who saw what Fields was doing. Everyone noticed, especially Big 12 opponents, which provided him both First-Team All-Big 12 honors in 2003 and very few pitches to hit in 2004.
If, as Anderson said, he'll adjust to anything around the strike zone, it must be best to just pitch around him, which is what's happened all year.
Despite being avoided by college pitchers throughout the country, Fields has put together a very respectable 2004 offensive campaign. His .366 batting average is highest on the team. Meanwhile, his power numbers have fallen as a result of seeing fewer good pitches. Through 54 games, he has just eight home runs and 43 RBIs.
What Fields can do on the diamond may not be as intriguing to scouts as what he can't do -- play football -- though his success on the football field educates scouts as much as anything. The agility, intelligence and durability Fields demonstrated passing for 2,494 yards and 21 touchdowns (against just 12 interceptions) appeal to scouts looking for "high ceilings." But at the same time, his commitment to football means that he hasn't played enough baseball.
Yet anyone close to Fields points out that his commitment to football has only helped develop intangibles that some detractors are quick to applaud.
"The thing that he brings from football is the discipline of knowing how to practice and being ready to practice every day," said Anderson, "as opposed to just a baseball guy who's a pretty good player but played in a [high school program] that wasn't very disciplined and wasn't very organized. But Josh is obviously a disciplined guy, and a great competitor on the football field, and those things carry over."
Fields probably could play in the NFL, and has said that he is keeping an open mind about the professional path he'll take, but conceded that his baseball future looks brighter than his football future. It's a choice he's weighing with the help of his parents, Rhonda and Wendall. He considers them his support group, just as they have been for the last three years.
Rhonda, a well-known basketball coach at Stillwater High School, has been a key element in Josh's freedom to play two sports, happily washing piles of dirty clothing every week to keep Josh clean, if only for a few minutes. So he plans to use his parents' advice when choosing his path.
"They've helped me out a lot. I wouldn't have been able to play two sports in college if they didn't live in the same town that I did and been able to help me out," he said. "Whenever I had to play a baseball game and run over to spring football, my mom would have a couple sandwiches and a Gatorade ready, and she'd hand them to me as I was walking up the street to go to football practice at nighttime."
As he leaves a second sport behind, Fields won't need his mother's laundry service as a professional athlete, and his need to be on multiple playing surfaces at the same time will be limited. So will he keep the moped, even with a nice signing bonus in the cards?
"I might keep the same scooter and keep puttin' around on it," he said.
Still, he thinks his pickup truck might be a better choice when he arrives at a Major League facility.
"I probably would get a little more grief for riding [my moped] around a Spring Training facility than I do around campus."
Kent Malmros is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.