Contributed C.K. Irby fires off a pitch from the mound in a game for the Samford Bulldogs. Irby was named to the 2012 John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year watch list.

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Irby named to award list

Published 6:00am Wednesday, July 4, 2012

C.K. Irby, whose grandparents are from Russellville, was named to the 2012 John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award watch list earlier this year.

The award recipient was selected on June 30, but Irby had been cut from the list beforehand.

Still, he was one of 20 college baseball players in the country to be named to the watch list, a great accomplishment in itself.

Irby has been playing baseball for several years now despite his young age.

“I have been playing since I was four when I started tee-ball,” he said. “I’ve been playing ever since.”

Irby played his high school ball at Mars Hill Bible School in Florence, where he was a pitcher and shortstop.

He graduated in 2010, and from there he travelled to Samford University in Birmingham.

“I’ll be honest; it was my only Division I offer,” Irby said. “I really liked the pharmacy program there. My mom went there, and I just felt it was a good fit for me.”

While baseball takes up a lot of his time, Irby knows which career field he would like to pursue during his time in college.

“I’m going to apply for pharmacy school at the end of this upcoming year,“ he said. “Hopefully I get accepted, and we’ll see where that goes. Samford has its own pharmacy school. I’d love to stay there; I love Birmingham. It’s been really good to me and a lot of fun.”

The John Olerud Award is given to the college player who is the best two-way player, meaning that the person can compete in more than one position, which is something not very player can say.

While Irby plays more than one position, he has no trouble deciding which is his favorite.

“The pitching success rate is a lot higher than the hitting success rate,” he said.

“This year I pitched and I was the [designated hitter] pretty much all year. Pitching is a lot more fun because you succeed a lot more than you fail.”

It takes a passion for the game to play it for so many years straight.

“I get an adrenaline rush every time I take the field,” he said. “I’m not going to lie; I guess I’m addicted to it. I know that’s a terrible way to put it, but I love the adrenaline high I get when I play. It’s a lot of fun.”

There were 20 players named to the Olerud Award watch list, which was eventually narrowed down to three candidates.

Irby made the top 10 on the list before he was cut, and he was one of only five players named to the list from smaller colleges.

“Sometimes we don’t get the exposure that some of the bigger schools get, but it’s nice to know that they actually recognize us, they do look at our stats and see how we compare to bigger teams,” he said.

With the number and quality of collegiate baseball players in the United States, making the top 10 on the watch list is quite an accomplishment.

“To be among the top 10 on that was pretty huge,” Irby said. “It’s really awesome to be in the company of two first-round draft picks. It was a big honor for me.”

Irby is a sophomore at Samford, so he has a few years left to go both on the field and in the classroom. Given his early success, he should have no problem getting noticed in the upcoming years.

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