Feb. 3, 2010

click here for CBI Summit preview


Furmanek a surprise catch for Oral Roberts

By Barrett Neale



Unlike most Division I athletes who train for years in the same position, Seth Furmanek had one year to become a catcher for Oral Roberts University.


He started his collegiate career at Chandler-Gilbert Community College as a pitcher and outfielder. He signed with Oral Roberts in those positions, but his coach, Doyle Wilson, wanted to turn him into a catcher and convinced him to stay at Chandler-Gilbert. At the end of his sophomore year, Furmanek transferred to Oral Roberts as a catcher.


Golden Eagles coach Rob Walton had planned to make Furmanek the backup catcher, but just a few days into the school year, starter Ben Petralli signed a contract with the Texas Rangers. At one point, Oral Roberts had only 11 position players – including walk-ons – because of players signing with Major League teams, according to Walton. As a result, the team had to rely on newer players like Furmanek.


“We didn’t get to bring him along at a pace more suited for him,” Walton said. “He just got thrown in the fire. He had to go through a lot of growing pains early on, making mistakes that he normally wouldn’t be making at the end of the year just because he’s in the game much too soon with no experience.”


Furmanek said the transition had been grueling and called it one of the hardest things he had ever done. But he kept an even demeanor as he learned which pitches to call, Walton said.


“I think if he was more of a hyper guy, it could have created some issues,” Walton said.  “But he’s got some calmness, doesn’t get all wound up, or if he doesn’t have success, he doesn’t beat himself up too much.”


He does that to opposing pitchers.


Furmanek led the Golden Eagles in home runs (17) and walks (37), was second in RBI (63) and third in average (.333). The Golden Eagles won their 12th straight conference championship to advance to an NCAA regional in Tempe, Ariz., 20 minutes from Furmanek’s hometown of Gilbert. Furmanek was named the 2009 Summit League Newcomer of the Year and made first team all-conference.


“Every year I’ve been with him, he’s progressed even more,” said pitcher Spencer Roberts, who played with Furmanek at Chandler-Roberts. “Statistics show that if he keeps progressing the way he is, he’s going to be even better than he was last year.”


Behind the dish, Furmanek said he liked being part of every play and getting to call the pitches. His favorite part of catching is when he calls a pitch that strikes a batter out.


“He kind of knows what to expect when I get on the mound and I’m throwing, and I kind of know what to expect when he’s catching,” Roberts said. “Watching from the bullpen or the dugout when he’s hitting, I know what to expect.”


Walton said Furmanek might get some breaks from catching this season and have the opportunity to pitch again, either as a starter or a reliever. At Chandler-Gilbert in 2007, Furmanek had a 4.54 ERA, earning a 2-2 record in 32.1 innings and striking out 23 batters.


“He’s kind of a mid- to upper-80s guy on the mound,” Walton said. “He’ll see some time as a DH, and there’ll be an opportunity to catch so he’ll end up really helping us in three areas – DH, on the mound and behind the plate.”


Furmanek, an exercise wellness major, said he has always dreamed of playing in the major leagues, but he would work in strength and conditioning or physical training if he couldn’t play professionally.


“My dad and I always talked about how I would be a success no matter what, if I were to play professional baseball or not, if I got a D-I scholarship and a degree,” Furmanek said.


Walton credits Furmanek for leading by example, taking the same approach to practices as he does to games. Walton said players like that were always successful, and he hoped that Furmanek would get to play in the major leagues.


“He works hard,” Walton said. “He’s got tremendous power and if you enjoy that part of the game, you’ll definitely enjoy watching this kid play. He earns it. He shows up for every game and does his work. Any honor he would get or any record he would break, he’s earned it.”


(photos courtesy of ORU Media Relations Office)