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On Campus

On Campus: Eustace earns appreciation for off-field grind

Indiana freshman outfielder Laren Eustace, a 2014 Batavia graduate, says the crunch of collegiate baseball travel has been especially challenging.
Indiana freshman outfielder Laren Eustace, a 2014 Batavia graduate, says the crunch of collegiate baseball travel has been especially challenging.

The transition from high school to college is a tough one, experiencing something you’ve never experienced before.

That’s going double for Batavia product Laren Eustace, who in addition to getting used to the usual college newness is going through something he’s never experienced before on the baseball field: He’s not playing very much.

Eustace played pretty much every day in four years at Batavia, he said, but as an Indiana freshman outfielder getting his first taste of collegiate baseball, things aren’t coming as easy. Things have gotten better as the season has gone on, but getting used to coming off the bench has been a challenge. He’s appeared in just 27 of the Hoosiers’ 49 games, and he’s batting just .207 with only six hits on the season.

“It was a lot tougher in the beginning of the season, not playing every single day like I did in high school,” Eustace said. “But I’ve just learned to be a lot better teammate, just pick everyone up, do whatever I can to help the team out. And whenever I can see the field, just help the team out as much as I can.

“A lot of the older guys helped me through. They picked me up sometimes. Some days are a little harder than others not playing, but I’ve just grown and learned that I have to get better even if I’m not playing, in practice and pregame and whatnot.”

While Eustace found it a little easier to adjust to the college lifestyle during the offseason, now that the season is in full swing, baseball’s presenting plenty of off-the-field challenges, as well.

“Honestly, it’s been the off-the-field stuff, especially during the season, for me,” he said. “In the offseason, in the fall, it’s a lot easier. You go to class, you’re done. You have so much time to get everything done. But especially for the first month of the season where it’s too cold to play at home, and we’re just traveling around going from airport to airport, traveling every single weekend. I think it’s kind of tough, especially when you’re missing class.”

But while things maybe haven’t gone as he hoped so far, Eustace has the right outlook. He’s looking to improve, saying he’s working on every facet of the game he can get better at, and he’s even learned to better appreciate the sport he’s been playing for much of his life.

“It was pretty tough, but I think I’ve gotten a lot more mentally tough as college has gone through,” he said. “The game of baseball just beats you down mentally. When you’re failing seven, eight times out of 10, it’s pretty tough, especially when the hits don’t fall. It’s just a grind.

“Just showing up every day with a positive attitude. That’s what I’ve learned. … If you think negative thoughts, it just kind of perpetuates in everything you do on the field to off the field. If you show up with a positive mindset, things are a lot better and you just enjoy it more. I’ve learned to enjoy the game of baseball a lot more.”

Eustace might not be playing every day now, but that’s about to change. He’s spending the summer in Vermont, where he’ll play for the Vermont Mountaineers in the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

He’ll be joined by three Indiana teammates, including two from the Chicago area, and he’ll get a chance to work on his skills. The Mountaineers boast a handful of former players now playing Major League Baseball, including current White Sox second baseman Micah Johnson.

“I’ve never been out there before. I’m going out there with three other guys on Indiana, including my roommate. … It will be very fun, I think,” Eustace said. “There are a couple older guys that played out in Vermont, and they said they liked it there. It’ll be a good experience.”

College is a tough transition for everyone, athlete or not. Though with a great attitude and the hard work he’s putting in, it seems like Eustace is heading in the right direction.

• Vinnie Duber writes the weekly On Campus column on area athletes competing in college. If you have a column idea, contact him at vinnieduber@gmail.com.

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