At first glance, one would think Taylor Emody looked more like an inside linebacker than a designated hitter, upon him stepping into the batter's box.
Standing at 6-foot-5-inches tall and weighing 235 pounds, Emody, a 2010 Edison graduate, can be an intimidating specter with a wooden bat in his hands.
Plenty of pitchers in the Prospect League would agree.
Heading into Friday's game at Chillicothe, Emody leads the Lorain County Ironmen of the summer collegiate wooden bat league in RBIs (20), while ranking second on the squad in hits (43) and doubles (6). Recently, he registered a 15-game hitting streak, which came to an end on July 15.
Through 36 games, the fifth-year senior at Ohio University features a .312 batting average.
It's been a promising summer for guy that struggled to a .225 average in 39 games for the Bobcats in 2014, a year after battling back from a torn Patellar tendon in 2013.
For his efforts, Emody was selected to play for the East Division team in the Prospect League Mid-Season All-Star game on July 8 at Bob Wren Field at Sycamore Stadium on the campus of Indiana State University. In the game, Emody was 1 for 3 with a run-scoring single in the second inning in a 9-2 victory for the East.
“Right now, I'm just trying to be as consistent as possible,” Emody said after helping the Ironmen to a 3-0 victory over Richmond at the Pipe Yard on July 11. “I'm just trying to get better for my school team, while having some fun helping the Ironmen out.
“The key for me is to stay consistent with my swing, to keep getting hits and keep doing what my team needs me to do,” he added. “It seems like we're starting to play a little bit better baseball. Now, we just have to finish the summer out strong.”
Against Richmond, Emody finished 1 for 4, tallying a game-high two RBIs on a hard-hit single to center field in the fifth inning.
This past Tuesday, he tied a season-high with three hits in Lorain County's 4-0 loss at Champion City.
Emody is one of 21 Ohio collegiate players on the Ironmen roster, which includes kids from as far away as California, Texas and Nova Scotia.
The Prospect League boasts teams from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, featuring athletes from schools like Ohio State University and the University of Mississippi to some of the nation's best small college programs.
“I love it here,” Emody said. “The weather up here is awesome in the summer. I'm used to being down south where the summer gets pretty brutal. So it's nice to get that refreshing Lake Erie breeze. And it's also cool just to be able to play with a lot of guys that are from around the area.”
This is an important offseason for Emody.
Being healthy and playing at a high level were two things he was not a year ago.
“Obviously, I feel like I'm getting into the groove right now,” Emody said. “Initially, at the beginning of last spring, it was difficult to get back in there after taking so many months off. Coach (Rob) Smith and the coaching staff put together a real tough schedule at the start of the year, so it was a challenge. It tested me mentally. It taught me I have to work hard everyday to avoid getting into hitting slumps.”
In four seasons in Athens, Emody is a career .268 hitter.
However, this past season he posted only a .225 average in 39 games
Ohio University went 11-40 in Smith's second season on the job, taking over for Joe Carbone, who recruited Emody. Carbone retired as the university's all-time winningest coach, but didn't leave much in the cupboard, leaving the new coaching staff with an uphill battle to get the program back into Mid-American Conference contention.
Smith, who came to the Bobcats after six seasons as pitching coach at Creighton University, prefers an up-tempo, high intensity style, not common in a sport known for its leisurely pace. Everything, even workouts and practices are fast-paced and done with a lot of energy.
“We're a real young team, so there's definitely a transition period, which I believe was this past spring,” Emody said. “We ran into a couple of losing streaks that nobody really wants to hit.
“But, at the same time, we gained so much experience from last year and we've really bought into coach (Smith's) program,” he continued. “We played a lot better ball towards the end of the year, especially in early May. I think next year we'll be ready to come out and compete from Game 1. We know we can play and we know that we belong at that level.”
As a freshman, Emody played in 48 games and made 44 starts in the infield, batting .299 and driving in 22 runs. He saw minimal playing time as a sophomore, but had a promising junior campaign come to an end running out a ground ball against Oakland University.
At the time, Emody was leading the Bobcats in several offensive categories, hitting .345 in seven starts as a designated hitter.
“This year, I'll be one of the oldest guys on the team, along with Garrett Black, another kid that got injured right around the same time that I did,” Emody said. “We've grown pretty close and we're ready to take on that leadership role. It all starts with how we play on the field, so both of us want to get off to a hot start next spring, then build on that, while helping the younger kids along to make sure the team is heading in the right direction.”
If this summer is any indication, the Bobcats should be in good shape.