The last few months have been a whirlwind for El Dorado catcher Joseph Bolin.
After finishing his junior year, Bolin spent his summer playing for the Arkansas Sticks, which opened up his recruiting.
With Jeff Burson taking over the reins of the EHS baseball program, Bolin began preparing for his senior season, but an unexpected bullpen session not only opened a bigger role for the Wildcats, but also for college baseball.
Earlier this week, Bolin signed to play collegiately at Ouachita Baptist where he will be a two-way player.
For Bolin, OBU was his top choice thanks to his sisters.
“My sisters went there and it was like a family thing for me at first, but over the years I’ve always thought how cool it would be to play there,” Bolin said. “It started with them. They really were the steppingstone for me wanting to go there.
“Everything just fell into place for me to go there. That was definitely my No. 1 school, and I think it was mainly for schooling reasons and also just to go play baseball at the next level. It’s very exciting that’s where I’m going to get to go, and that’s how I’m going to change my whole life for sure.”
Bolin said there were several subjects he’s thought about pursuing while hoping to get into the coaching ranks.
“Hopefully one day I can end up coaching or something like that either in high school or college,” Bolin said. “That’s always been something I’ve always kind of wanted to do, but I think having that business mindset kind of gets there as well.”
Playing for the Sticks helped get his recruiting started.
“That really opened some doors just with the recruiting standpoint,” Bolin said. “I first got reached out by Highland Community College in Kansas. With that one and me posting that on Twitter, that really opened some doors for some other colleges that maybe hadn’t seen me before.
“That really helped me out a lot. At the beginning of the fall, I went to a bunch of camps and OBU was on the list. I got a bunch of recognition over those. It was starting to become an everyday thing where I was getting reached out to by coaches.”
Then came a chance bullpen session that Burson caught a glimpse of and the idea of Bolin being a two-way player was born.
“I was just messing around one day and went and threw a pen,” Bolin said. “I’ve always had kind of a good pitch repertoire and had some pretty good movement on my pitches.
“I was just kind of playing when we were throwing and Burson saw it. Now I throw bullpens almost every week. It was definitely an eye-opening thing because even during the fall, I’ve dominated over there and just wherever I’ve been going because it’s not much for me to think about. That’s just my mentality. I’m getting out there and just going to compete. I think it’s that competitiveness that’s making me a good pitcher right now.”
Bolin worked 2 2/3 innings during the Wildcats’ fall World Series, and he is looking forward to the challenge.
“I haven’t been much of a pitcher, and he’s trying to transform me into a pitcher here at El Dorado,” Bolin said. “I’m going to have to step up and play starting catcher and also come in pitch a lot of innings this year, so I think with how good he is at the pitching point of view, I think he’s going to help all of our pitching a lot.
“That’s part of the reason why I’m going to OBU is to pitch too. I’m going to be a little bit of a versatile guy, and that’s just the short two or three months we’ve had over here with him that he’s developed me and I think that’s going to help me get to the next level and work up there.
“I think what’s really helped all of us is just the way he goes about everything and the way we all get out here and grind too. I think it’s going to be good for us the way he’s coming out here and showing us the kind of ballplayers we need to be and the kind of humans we need to be off the field too.”
It’s not often catchers become two-way players due to how grueling the position is to play, and Bolin has made it a focal point to hit the weight room during the offseason.
“I was always kind of scared of the weight room,” Bolin said. “Over the quarantine break, we weren’t able to come out to the field or anything like that. I wasn’t losing much, but I definitely wasn’t gaining anything, so about the middle of my junior year, I decided, ‘Man if I want to get to the next level, I’ve got to get in the weight room and put in the work that everyone else is putting in. I didn’t see much of a result from it last year, but once Burson got here, we went pretty heavy. We’re doing sleds every Monday as a team. Throughout the week, we do every kind of workout you can imagine, and it’s definitely made a huge difference for us.
“I can name four or five guys that have gone up 30 to 40 pounds on every category. Our agility is phenomenal. We’re going to be one of the fastest teams in the state this year. I think it’s really helped me too because as a catcher, most of the time, catchers aren’t the fastest guys on the field, but it’s definitely going to be that fifth tool if I can get faster and stronger at the same time.
“I think that’s been the thing that’s helped all of us get that step ahead is getting in the weight room and getting stronger just knowing that if we’re going to be strong, we’re going to be just as good fundamentally.”
Bolin’s predecessor as El Dorado’s catcher was Jared Rhodes, and he played in a pivotal role in Bolin’s growth.
“My freshman year, the first day that I got there, Jared came up to me and he was like, ‘Man, if you want to be here, we’re going to find out.’ He said, ‘I’m going to work you. This is what’s going to tell me and this is what’s going to tell our coaches here if you’re ready,’” Bolin said.
“Jared worked with me every day. We developed a very strong bond. I keep up with him. We’re always talking with each other. He definitely played a massive part in where I’m at today. I definitely wouldn’t be anywhere near the ballplayer that I am just because of the mentality that he had every day. Coach (Hayden) Dow also played a huge part along with Jared.
“It was him and Jared that always would come after or during practice and we would always go work as hard as we could. Me and Jared were always competing against each other, but it wasn’t a negative competition.
“I definitely don’t regret a single day that I got to come out here and work with him because he was just that guy. He was the guy anybody could run to.”
With his college plans finalized, Bolin is focused on the upcoming season, and fans got an early glimpse with the Wildcats’ fall World Series last week.
“After since we got to school, we’ve been grinding hard,” Bolin said. “We’re going to have a good season this year because coach Burson knows what he’s doing over here.
“I think with his coaching style, we’re going to have a good year just from this offseason and the way we’ve showed out. Last week, we had our fall World Series, and we put on a show for the people that came. It was really good. I think the way that coach Burson is figuring all of us out in his first year here, I think we’re going to go a long ways this year.”
With Burson along with several starters back, Bolin is ready for the 2022 season.
“He’s about as bright a character as you’ll ever meet. There’s not one negative thing to say about him and his character, the personality he has,” Bolin said of Burson.
“Every day we come out here, we’re all kinds of fired up to get after it because he knows he’s fired up about it too. He’s ready to come out here and compete with us. I’m very excited about this season.
“I’m ready for it to go, but it’s also senior year, so I don’t want it to go too fast because I want to live out every moment I can with this team just because it’s a brotherhood over here.”