By Joey Bennett
TERRE HAUTE — When John Cummins suffered a broken hand early in his senior year at Purdue this spring, his college baseball career could have been over.
The possibility existed that the former Terre Haute North standout wouldn’t recover in time from the injury, or a replacement could move in and take over his spot for good.
Cummins bounced back from his March 8 injury and went on to record his best season for the Boilermakers, good enough to be voted by the league’s coaches as a third-team All-Big Ten Conference performer.
The first baseman appeared in 24 contests after mending, including 20 starts, and hit .420 (34 for 81) with six doubles, a triple, a home run, 15 RBIs and 17 runs scored.
“It was an honor to be selected for the third team All-Big Ten,” Cummins said. “It was a great way to end my senior season/career. From beating the number one team in the country [North Carolina] my freshman year, to finishing in the Top 5 in Big Ten batting average my senior year, it provided me with some great memories.
“It's been a fun ride.”
Cummins appeared in just 16 of Purdue's 23 league games, batting .441 (26 for 59) with six doubles, a triple, 13 RBIs and 11 runs scored in conference play. His return to the lineup helped bolster an already potent Purdue offense and lift the Boilers into the final spot in the Big Ten Tournament.
Cummins finished his senior season hitting .400, second on the team, with 78 hits in 185 at-bats. He had eight doubles, two triples, one home run, 20 RBI and scored 21 runs.
He was also named Purdue's nominee for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
Growing up an Indiana University fan, Cummins put aside his personal preferences and chose to play for the Boilermakers – a decision he looks back upon as a good one.
“Coach [Doug] Schreiber made a house visit to what was then a ‘shrine’ to the Indiana Hoosiers,” Cummins recalls. “He later told me he never thought I would choose Purdue, but I loved the coaches, baseball program, and the education I was going to be able to get. It was fun playing along side my good friend John Phegley and playing against his ‘little’ brother Josh.”
Cummins, like many college athletes, considers his dealing with time management as one of the hidden by-products of his Purdue experience.
“I have met great people, traveled to great universities, and got to play at some great ballparks,” he said. “The hardest part of playing any D-1 sport is the time commitment. It’s like having a ‘job’ on top of your class schedule. In season, you’re traveling three or four days a week to play road games and mid-week games, and it becomes hard to stay up with class. At the same time, it forces you to learn how to manage your time and handle stressful situations.
“For most college athletes at any level, these attributes will pay off for them in their life after sports.”
Cummins credits his parents – Tom and Nancy – for the success he has been able to have.
“I wouldn't be where I am today if it were not for my mom and dad,” he said. “My old man pushed me to be the best I could be from day one. He taught me that to be the best you have to practice harder and faster than the other guy. I think that one simple idea of outworking your opponent got me to where I am today.”
His mother served a valuable role in emotional support on the bad days.
“She has always been a great coach/fan, always telling me I had a great game, even if I went 0-for-5 with 4 Ks (three backwards) versus Ohio State in my freshman year,” he said.
“I’ve had great coaches my entire life,” he added, also thanking Barry Jenkins – coach of his state championship 12-year-old Little League team – and North coach Shawn Turner. “ It's hard to thank all the people who have helped me. They all influenced me on the field in more than one way.”
Cummins is majoring in building construction management, and will return to Purdue this fall to finish up his degree requirements. This summer, he’s living in Chicago and interning with Weis Builders working on a project in Dallas.
• Comings and goings – A few additions have been made to a list of 2009-2010 commitments in the last edition of this column.
Linton’s Megan Barnes signed a letter of intent in January to play volleyball for Vincennes University next year. The 6-1 Barnes helped lead Linton to the 2007 Class 2A sectional championship.
“We look for Megan to have a chance to compete for a starting spot,” VU Coach Tina Miller told the Greene County Daily World. “We will probably move her from the middle to the right side.
“She has good size and a good arm swing. She will definitely be able to come in and help us.”
Union standout basketball player Megan Gambill will try out for Southern Indiana’s women’s team as a walk-on.
Former Paris golfer Kadie Savoree will be starting her senior year at Valparaiso University this fall, and recently became the school’s first-ever women’s golfer after the school decided to begin a new program. She will be able to continue playing after this season if she stays at Valparaiso for graduate school.
Adam Richart of Robinson, the starting catcher at Lincoln Trail College the past two years, will continue his baseball career at Indiana State, according to a release on the school’s Web site.
Terre Haute North softball standout Kelsey Rosselli will continue her career at St. Mary-of-the-Woods.
Rockville’s Aaron Bridge, who had originally intended to go to Franklin College to play football and basketball, will instead go to Indiana State as a preferred walk-on football player.
• It’s a small world – Luke Johnson of Terre Haute North, a 2009 Butler graduate and former tight end for the Bulldog football team, has joined MainGate in Indianapolis as a staff accountant in the company’s finance department.
MainGate is a sports merchandising company whose clients include Danica Patrick Racing, Harley-Davidson, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the New Jersey Nets, the National Hot Rod Association, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and professional sports teams such as the New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Browns, Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets, Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams.
One of Johnson’s co-workers is fellow North grad Marc O’Leary, a former Hanover College basketball standout.
Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches and coaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at tribstarcollegereport@