Turner tries to catch on in new role for Flashes

Special to Tribune Chronicle Champion’s Michael Turner signs his letter of intent to play baseball at Kent State.

Champion’s Michael Turner has played shortstop his entire life. However, the baseball standout will make the transition to catcher for the Golden Flashes baseball team this spring, which is the position that his next school wants him to play.

Turner recently signed his letter of intent to attend Kent State University in the fall of 2017. The coaches at Kent believe that the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder has the skill set to play catcher at the next level, and in the process, Champion coach Rick Yauger decided to move Turner behind the plate.

“We’re gonna give him an opportunity behind the plate. We really want to do what’s best for him,” Yauger said of Turner. “He has a cannon for an arm, and Kent thinks he has the prototypical catcher’s build.”

According to Turner, the transition shouldn’t be too difficult, except that he’s still learning how to block pitches and control pitchers. But for Turner, he’s optimistic about the move, as he laughed and said that everybody tells him that a, “left-handed hitting, right-handed catcher makes it to the big leagues.”

Turner, who says that his hand strength is his greatest improvement as a hitter in recent years, an improvement he attributes to personal hitting coach Eddie Day, says that Kent State coaches want him to become a more aggressive hitter this year.

“The Kent State coaches came and watched me play and said that I needed to take more chances,” Turner said. “I’m usually more of a patient hitter, but the Kent coaches want me to swing at the first pitch more.”

Part of the reason Turner is such a standout is because of his bloodlines. His father, Brian, was drafted by the New York Yankees. Brian signed with the Yankees straight out of Grand Valley High School as a 40th-round pick in 1989, and spent the next few years in the minor leagues.

According to the younger Turner, his dad has given him plenty of fatherly advice throughout his blossoming baseball career.

“My dad talked to me about getting an education, because baseball might not always be there,” Michael said. “He told me that unless you get drafted in the first couple rounds, it’s not really worth it (to sign straight out of high school).”

Turner and his Champion teammates will certainly have plenty of high expectations heading into the spring, following a Division III district semifinal upset loss as a No. 1 seed a year ago.

For the Flashes to make a deep postseason run in 2017, Yauger believes that Turner’s improved leadership will be key.

“His teammates look up to him,” Yauger said. “I tell him that he needs to set the bar in everything he does.”