Vacation is over; it's back to work for Turner
Being away from your job for a year and a half will teach you a lesson. It will either show you that it's time to move on, or it will remind you to listen to that little voice inside you that says, "That is where you belong."...
Being away from your job for a year and a half will teach you a lesson. It will either show you that it's time to move on, or it will remind you to listen to that little voice inside you that says, "That is where you belong."
Dukes pitcher Eric Turner realized after a year and a half of surfing and lifting weights that he belonged on a pitcher's mound.
It was then that the California native called Dukes owner Harry Stavrenos and asked if he could come play in the Northern League. Stavrenos, thankfully for the Dukes, said yes, and Turner packed for Duluth, knowing only that he wanted to pitch again, the way he had since he was 7 years old.
"I just cleared my mind and decided that I wanted to play again," said Turner, 22, who has evolved into the pre-eminent short-relief man out of the Dukes bullpen this year, allowing just one earned run in 14.1 innings of work. His strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 17-4 has made him particularly valuable in high-pressure situations with runners on base, a key to bullpen success.
Actually, life in the bullpen is a new experience for Turner, a converted starter, who was 10-2 in his final season at Chico State University (Division II) in California.
"It's a new role for me, for sure," said Turner. "I've always started my whole life. But I like coming out of the bullpen. I like the idea of having a chance to play every day."
With Turner averaging 1.2 strikeouts per inning, the Dukes wish they could play him every day, which is quite a vote of confidence for a pitcher turned surfer turned pitcher again.
"If there was a moment when I started getting my confidence back, it was (during our preseason games) in St. Paul," said Turner. "I threw my first pitch and broke a guy's bat ... fastball right on the hands."
Since then, Turner has been mixing that fastball with a slider and a change-up to baffle Northern League hitters in his first season of professional baseball. His approach on the mound so far has been simple, but extremely effective.
"I just put all my trust in the catcher," said Turner. "That's all I really concentrate on. I do what I have to do, and that's go after hitters."
By the end of the summer, Turner's goal is to still be going after hitters, except he'd like it to be on a bigger stage. What's the perfect ending to his comeback season?
"The Dukes win a championship," said Turner. "Obviously, I'd like to play for an organization somewhere, but number one is to do my job here."
At his current pace, he may get both jobs done, which would be further evidence that he's back where he belongs.
"I knew all along that this is what I should be doing," said Turner. "I did not want to be 30 years old, telling everybody what I could have done.
"I'm just out here chasing a dream."
What better place to start for a Califonia-cool surfer than Duluth?
The Dukes wrapped up a three-game series with the Sioux City Explorers on Thursday night.
Dukes sluggers Anthony Lewis and Tony Mitchell each hit two-run home runs to give Duluth-Superior a 4-0 lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning, when the game was suspended because of rain.
It will be continued on Monday when the Explorers travel to Duluth.