Less than two years ago, Josh Ludy couldn't even crack Baylor's two-deep at catcher.
So entering his junior season, it was time for a difficult sit-down conversation with coach Steve Smith.
Not a confrontation, but a consultation.
“Josh showed up in my office one day, and I think he was afraid that we didn't want him,” Smith said. “He's an Indiana kid, so he'd come south. And that's not the first time I've had a kid come in to have that conversation. But most of the time when they come in, they come in with a chip on their shoulder and it's almost like, ‘Play me or I'm leaving.'
“Well he came in and the longer we talked he teared up. My sense was this kid wants to play so bad and he's hurting deep inside because he thinks we don't believe in (him).”
Smith, however, believed.
Now everyone's a believer, after Ludy helped power the Bears to the Big 12 regular season championship, belting nine homers and driving in a league-high 54 runs. Eight of Ludy's long balls came in conference play, when Baylor raced to a record 18-0 start en route to a 20-4 finish.
Ludy is The Oklahoman's Big 12 Player of the Year.
Not even Ludy saw all that coming in the fall of 2010.
“We had two other guys ahead of me,” he said. “But one of them ended up leaving after the fall. And then me and (Joey) Hainsfurther split time until the end of the year.”
Ludy started 12 of the final 13 games in 2011, including all six postseason games, setting the stage for his big breakout in 2012.
“Things definitely didn't fall for me the first 21/2 years,” he said, “but I got my chance and I've been able to play pretty well.”
Ludy made his chance, too, committing to improving his defense, one of the messages in that meeting with Smith.
“I was a little bit more of an offensive catcher, so defense was something I definitely needed to work on,” he said.
“I think I kind of always knew that I was a lot stronger offensively than defensively, but it got pointed out a little bit, too.”
And he learned.
But he didn't leave.
“He's a really special kid to me,” Smith said. “To see what he's become is really special. He really does play with his heart. And you look at him and that's not the first thing to come to mind. He's a big guy with power and an impressive looking guy.
“But to me, it's really what he plays with, heart.”