Hard work pays off for local player

Post date: Sep 26, 2013 7:47:20 PM

This article was originally published in our February 20th, 2012 Newsletter.

Ever since changing the format of the newsletter, I have been wanting to start writing articles that I think will be of value to the readers of this newsletter and their children who play baseball or softball. I have known RJ Vukovich since he was about 10 years old and I have watched him develop into an outstanding college player.

RJ is the son of a good friend of mine who I have played adult baseball with for the past 12 years. My first memory of RJ is from back in 1999 when he would come to many of our games and take ground balls and sometimes batting practice with us before the team took infield. He did not stand out to me as an outstanding baseball player although he was a good athlete and he was always working hard. I can't say that there was anything special though. In hindsight, I was seeing what was special about RJ and I didn't even know it.

RJ has a passion for the game and he has worked himself into the position of starting shortstop at Walsh University as a Junior. For those of you who are not impressed yet, take a look at his stats below. He entered his senior year of high school at 5' 9", 140lbs and he led the team in home runs and batted .310.

Since then, he graduated from North Canton Hoover

and went to a a couple of different schools until he found his home at Walsh University where he started 42 of 48 games at 2B last year. He will be the starting shortstop this year as a Junior and he is up to a whopping 5'9" 160 lbs. You can see below the summary of his workout regimen and philosophy. The entire purpose of this article is to point out that there is only one thing that separates successful players with unsuccessful players.....hard work. It's hard to say where he would be playing if he was blessed with a 6'3", 225lb frame, but it doesn't matter. He is following his passion and he is privileged to play the game at a high level and he has EARNED IT! I want to congratulate RJ for what he has worked to hard to accomplish and I want to encourage other 10 year old players that no matter their size or God given ability, the one thing that will always set them apart is their work ethic and attitude. Please read the information below and share it with an athlete that you know (in any sport). Most kids won't do anything with the information but I feel that it is my job to provide them with the information that can make a difference for them.

Player Profile - RJ Vukovich

High School - North Canton Hoover

5'9 140lbs (going into senior year)

Played 2B Junior year and SS senior year

Led the team in HRs senior year and batted .310 (batted mostly 5th but occasionally 4th)

West Liberty State University:

Started 6 of 8 games

Fairmont State University:

Start 2 of 4 games - ended with a medical red-shirt


5'9 160lbs

Started 42 of 48 games at 2B (2 games at 3rd) last year/sophomore year

Starting SS this year (junior year)

Gold nuggets of information


  • Lifting 5 days a week (hard lifting).

  • Doing something 7 days a week (lifting/running/throwing/hitting/grounders/etc..)

  • Long toss anytime I throw (arm strength will increase over time - got to trust it)

Always has been considered undersized and has to "outwork" everyone for opportunities.

Motto: "Let people talk. Let others listen. ONE Vision - ONE Focus - ONE Dream. Dare to be great!"

What he hears/motivates him. "TOO SMALL....TOO SLOW...NOT STRONG ENOUGH...CAN'T HIT.....WEAK ARM"

Attaining ones dream in baseball is not complicated, it's just difficult. I have known dozens of high school players who were more physically gifted than RJ who were out of baseball by their freshman year of college (including myself, if you are wondering why I am writing this article) because they weren't willing to pay the price or were too stupid to know that their career can end quickly. I hope this article will encourage at least one player to understand that if they keep outworking others, their dream is attainable.

Update 9/26/2013

RJ is now playing professionally in Europe. After a season in which he was the starting shortstop for the Olimpija Karlovac Baseball Club, Karlovac Croatia, he will be returning for his second season in 2014.

In the meantime, he will be introducing a new coaching concept at Play Ball Sports Academy called "open workout coach". The concept is that RJ will be at the academy during specified times when players can come in for a workout. It would not be an organized workout or practice. The idea is that RJ will help the player develop his or her own individual workout routine and be available if the player has questions. RJ would also be an "accountability coach" for these players and provide them with coaching on fundamentals, footwork, hitting or anything else the player wants help with. RJ will be developing this program and there will be more information to come. RJ will also be available for traditional hitting lessons and defensive lessons.