Kuresa catches on in college game
It’s Wednesday evening, May 4, in Eugene, Ore., and Tyler Kuresa is studying at Jaqua Academic Center, a three-story building on the University of Oregon campus that was built for its athletes.
“It’s all tutoring; there are a lot of rooms. We go there and study,” the freshman first baseman says.
A year ago at this time, Kuresa could ride home in his Oakmont High School baseball uniform from Roseville, Woodcreek and Granite Bay and discuss the Vikings’ Sierra Foothill League games with his family.
On this particular Wednesday evening, Kuresa was recalling the previous night, when the Ducks registered perhaps the biggest victory since Oregon reinstated its baseball program three years ago — 7-2 over No. 3 Oregon State in Corvallis.
Marathon practices, lengthy stretches of games for several days and school have made the transition from prep baseball to Pacific-10 Conference baseball tough for Kuresa, but as he says, “I’m doing just fine.”
“You have to bring a level of intensity every single day,” Kuresa says. “It can get stressful at times because games are a little more upbeat. We’re playing for more. At the end of the day, you realize it’s just baseball. I’ve been playing my whole life.”
Kuresa’s parents, Marla and Suki, have seen him play several times this season. That included a three-game series the weekend of April 29-May 1 against Cal in Berkeley. The fan club included Kuresa’s brother and sister, nieces and nephews, Oakmont head coach Dean Perkins and assistant coach Anthony DeArcos.
Kuresa didn’t play in the Cal series, but he has started 24 games this season.
“That was one of my weekends off,” he says. “I was hoping I would get some innings in front of my family, but I was on TV a lot, so it’s not like they haven’t seen me play.”
Kuresa and Oregon started the season in Hawaii. Subsequent trips included Long Beach State, Arizona State, the University of San Diego, USC and Portland. Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park they aren’t, but then again …
“You play on a top-caliber field every day,” Kuresa says. “It’s an awesome experience just to have the privilege to go to those parks and play ball at these magnificent places.”
Kuresa’s fielding percentage is a solid .983. He’s hitting .191 with five doubles and a triple in the NCAA’s first year with the new bat standards. Oregon’s team batting average is .250, its opponents a collective .242. The Ducks (26-24-1 overall) have hit just 17 home runs, their opponents 12.
Kuresa hit a combined .417 in three varsity seasons at Oakmont with 88 hits, including 28 doubles and seven homers. He said he struggled last fall after arriving at Oregon, having to face “good pitching day in and day out.” Kuresa eventually started to figure out college pitching.
“I’m actually pretty happy about how I’ve been hitting,” he says. “I’ve been hitting balls hard and hitting them at people.”
On top of that, Oregon plays on carpet at PK Park. Kuresa says Oregon coach George Horton describes PK as “a man’s park.”
“It’s hard to get hits there,” Kuresa says. “For what my goals were coming into this year, I feel like I’ve been hitting to par.”
Kuresa says he has had two mentors in baseball — Leon Lee and Mark Blaser. Lee is the father of major-leaguer Derrek Lee. Blaser is the father of Roseville stars Nick and Dalton Blaser. Now, Kuresa is playing for Horton, a two-time National Coach of the Year who came to Oregon from national power Cal State Fullerton.
“It blows me away how much he knows about the game,” Kuresa says.
Oregon took two of three from Stanford last weekend and played Gonzaga on Tuesday. With 52 games completed in his first college season, Kuresa and the Ducks still have games to play. Oregon will play at Portland next Tuesday and then be host to rival Oregon State for a three-game series from May 27-29.
Says Kuresa, “I wouldn’t trade places with anybody.”