Hello and welcome back to Connor’s Corner, a column where I discuss a standout performance in professional sports and that player’s journey from high school to the professional level. Following an exciting week of World Baseball Classic action, one particular player has been giving his squad a solid case for being crowned WBC champions. That player is none other than Team USA shortstop Trea Turner.
Turner has enjoyed an impressive WBC thus far, going 7/19 (.368) from the dish, including an all-time Team USA-best of four home runs. Last Sunday, the Phillies shortstop tied Ken Griffey Jr. and David Wright with 10 RBIs in a single tournament. However, what caught the eyes of baseball fans around the world was his performance in Team USA’s last two matchups. Last Saturday night, the U.S. found themselves on the brink of elimination, down two to an undefeated Venezuela after blowing a three-run lead only three innings previous. Despite the midgame blues, this narrative flipped in the eighth inning.
There’s an old adage in pitching: Walking the leadoff hitter will almost always spell trouble. This proved true last Saturday, as Venezuela’s José Quijada fought hard but walked the first hitter he saw in the eighth inning after being up 2-2 in the count. Pete Alonso followed up with a single to right field and Quijada’s night ended after hitting J.T. Realmuto to load the bases with nobody out. Venezuela called on Silvino Bracho to put out the fire. To do so, he needed to face Turner.
Interestingly enough, these two athletes have faced each other exactly one other time in their careers. The at-bat in question occurred on Sept. 26, 2016, in a game where Washington trailed the Diamondbacks 14-4. Bracho fooled Turner with a slider that he checkswung. Turner hit a weak dribbler to first that was such a sure out that he didn’t bother running. It was undoubtedly on his mind, as postgame, he told Ken Rosenthal, “Go look at the highlight of the at-bat,” Rosenthal asked, “Bad?” “So bad,” Turner responded.
Despite this, Turner let bygones be bygones, as he rocked a 0-2 changeup 407 feet to complete his Hollywood-esque comeback. His grand slam gave the USA a 9-7 victory and a semifinal date against Cuba. This matchup, however, wasn’t even close, as USA won 14-2 thanks to two home runs, four RBIs and a single for Turner. Turner hasn’t embraced the typical stereotype of being a No. 9 hitter, as Team USA wouldn’t be in the position they are in without his bat.
Undoubtedly, the outcome last Saturday could have gone much differently without Turner. After this contest, the Florida native became the first player in WBC history with four RBIs in consecutive games and joined Griffey Jr. as the only U.S. players with two home runs in a single WBC game.
Before coming to “The Show,” Turner attended Park Vista Community High School in Lake Worth, Florida, where he excelled. The future Phillie batted .379 and stole 13 bags as a junior. He performed so well that he was named an honorable mention selection to The Palm Beach Post’s all-area large schools team — a great honor considering how competitive baseball is in the Sunshine State. Turner was so talented that he caught the attention of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who took him in the 20th round of the 2011 MLB draft. Despite being drafted, Turner decided to take his talents to the collegiate level and joined NC State.
As a freshman, Turner was already making an impact. He led the nation in the record for stolen bases with 57, only being caught four times. He was a pitcher’s nightmare, as he stole his first 29 bags without being caught. He started all 63 games as a third baseman, with an excellent batting average of .336. He was also ranked No. 6 in the nation with 72 runs. If you aren’t impressed yet, Turner stole so many bases that his total was tied for No. 133 among teams, which means he stole more bases than over half of the teams in DI baseball.He tied another record in a matchup against Clemson on April 13, 2012, becoming the sixth player in conference history to steal five bases in a single game. As a sophomore, he performed just as well, hitting .368 from the dish and stealing 30 bases. He led the Wolfpack in batting average, runs, hits, triples, total bases, walks, OBP and stolen bases, despite missing 11 games due to injury. In his final season, he hit over .300 and stole 26 bases which got the attention of the San Diego Padres, who took him 13th overall.
Before coming to the City of Brotherly Love, Turner was in the San Diego Padres system, where he never played a major league game for them. Instead, he was part of a three-team trade with the Rays and Nationals, finding himself with Washington D.C. The speedster’s game improved as he moved from third base to shortstop and played 73 games in his rookie year. The shortstop came in second place for National League Rookie of the Year on .342 hitting and 33 stolen bases. During his tenure in Washington D.C., the National found success, owning a .300 average, 171 steals and playing an intricate part in upsetting the Houston Astros in the 2019 World Series. In 2021 he was traded to the Dodgers. This time around, Turner failed to win the Fall Classic. Last offseason, he signed a monster 11-year deal worth $300 million to last season’s runner-ups: the Phillies.
The young shortstop has made a name for himself eight seasons into his young career. He could be the missing piece for a Philadelphia team with its sights set on returning to the Fall Classic and winning it. If Turner keeps playing the way he has for all his career, the city of Philadelphia can finally once again be the city of champions.