Nine months after he committed to little more than an idea, Kase Ogata looked across the baseball field at Fort Boise and cracked a smile a mile wide.
Ogata, a Rocky Mountain High graduate, was the first player to commit to Boise State’s reinstated baseball program on Dec. 22 last year. Others soon followed, many only knowing two things — the Broncos had a coach in Gary Van Tol, and they’d start to play in 2020.
“I can’t even describe what it’s been like, it’s been an honor just to be out here, working and representing Boise State and starting this program up,” Ogata said. “... it’s unbelievable, I wanted to play football here, never thought (baseball) would happen, but it’s here.”
That, of course, meant a lot of waiting. Players arrived on campus this summer and began to practice last month. Van Tol only completed his staff in late August with ex-Major League catcher Travis Buck.
“A little surreal,” Van Tol said in September about having players to work with. “... it’s a little overwhelming at times, but having this group of guys here that are here for all the right reasons, to build a culture, to lay a foundation, we’re pretty excited.”
Van Tol will always have a soft spot for this first crop of Broncos, arriving as non-scholarship players, and will have had three semesters’ worth of practices before even the chance of appearing in a game.
They call themselves “The Dirty Dozen,” “The 12-Pack,” or “Original 12,” and they’ve come from all walks of life.
There’s the local kids like Ogata and Geonhyoung (Ryan) Kim, from Timberline High via South Korea who transferred from the University of Portland. Five of the 12 are Division I transfers, but none of the newcomers has a story quite like Grant Kerry.
Kerry is from England but discovered baseball living in Kuwait and played at a prep school in western Australia. He played cricket growing up and was an avid golfer. Following a bad round with his dad when he was 10, they weren’t getting along and a bulletin board at the course advertised baseball tryouts. Kerry’s dad asked if he was interested, and Kerry said no.
“He signed me up anyway,” Kerry said. “Out of spite, I’m pretty certain. Went to tryouts the next weekend, sucked ... it was disastrous.”
But the cricket background meant one thing — he could throw. And despite everything else being poor, he made the team, and said from that day forward he wanted to play college baseball in the United States.
Playing at a school in Perth, a teammate’s father knew someone who coached with Van Tol at Treasure Valley Community College 20 years ago. Van Tol liked what he saw in the outfield/pitcher.
“The day I committed was one of the best days of my life,” Kerry said.
Van Tol refers to his first set of Broncos as his “test group,” that he wanted to recruit skilled players with an open mind willing to figure out what will work when 18 more players are added next year. He initially had not planned on bringing in any players until 2019, but felt the guys on campus now would play a major role in letting the Broncos hit the ground running.
“These 12 were chosen ... people will know who the Dirty Dozen is as we continue to build this thing,” Van Tol said.
Boise State concludes its fall practices Tuesday with a 6-on-6 scrimmage.
BOISE STATE BASEBALL FALL 2018 ROSTER
OF Jayce Bailey, Fr., 6-4, 160, Coeur d’Alene High
UTIL Ike Buxton, Fr., 6-3, 195, Wood River High (Ketchum)
IF Matthew Farman, Fr., 6-2, 180, McQueen High (Reno, Nev.)
P Gavin Gorrell, So., 6-3, 210, Northern Colorado (North Bend, Wash.)
P Wesley Harper, 6-2, 185, Fr., Bellarmine College Prep (San Jose, Calif.)
OF Michael Hicks, 6-7, 250, Sr., University of Portland (Coeur d’Alene)
OF/P Grant Kerry, 6-2, 182, Fr., Wesley College (Wynyard, England)
OF Geonhyoung Kim, 6-0, 180, Jr., Portland (Jeonju, South Korea/Boise)
UTIL Dawson Martin, 5-10, 185, Fr., Spanish Springs High (Reno, Nev.)
C Cory Meyer, 5-11, 185, Sr., Washington State (Pocatello)
1B Kase Ogata, 6-1, 235, Fr., Rocky Mountain High (Meridian)
P Cameron Sommer, 6-2, 190, Sr., UT Rio Grande Valley (Puyallup, Wash.)