Catcher Ben Turner emerging as stabilizing presence for Missouri baseball

Sunday, March 13, 2011 | 8:02 p.m. CDT; updated 8:44 p.m. CDT, Sunday, March 13, 2011
Missouri junior Ben Turner slides into home plate as Le Moyne catcher Kyle Kalaka fields the ball. Turner, a catcher himself who had three hits in Sunday's game, was called out on the play.

COLUMBIA — Ben Turner is doing all right for himself.

Entering Sunday's game, the Missouri catcher led the baseball team with a .375 batting average and a .516 on-base percentage. Then, in the Tigers' 10-1 victory over Le Moyne on Sunday, he had three hits, two runs and a walk in four at-bats. In the classroom, he has maintained a 3.5 GPA while majoring in biological engineering.

And, the 20-year-old jokes, he is batting a perfect 1.000 against his younger brother.

If this were true, it might be his greatest accomplishment because while Ben Turner has emerged as the starting catcher for Missouri (7-9), he's not boasting the multimillion-dollar contract of his 19-year-old brother, Jacob Turner.

After getting drafted ninth by the Detroit Tigers in the 2009 MLB draft, Jacob Turner signed a $5.5 million contract that included a $4.7 million bonus, the largest ever paid to a high-school pitcher.

"Always being his big brother and watching him grow up, I was really proud of him," Ben Turner said.

As Jacob Turner begins his second spring training trying to excel in Detroit's minor league farm system, Ben Turner is heating up for Missouri. Another good weekend for the junior helped Missouri win three of four games against Le Moyne.

At the beginning of the season senior Ryan Ampleman looked to take over the starting catcher position vacated by Nicholas Brett. Sophomores Scott Sommerfeld and Andreas Plackis were also vying for time.

But Ben Turner's success both at and behind the plate have stood out to coach Tim Jamieson.

"Obviously, the results speak for themselves," Jamieson said. "Ben has started to distance himself from the other guys."

Jamieson praised Ben Turner's mental ability to make good decisions and stay focused. Pitcher Zack Hardoin, who struck out a career-high eight batters and held Le Moyne to three hits and no runs on Sunday, agreed.

"I’ve always been a big fan of Ben back there," Hardoin said. "Having him there behind the plate, he calls a great game and really keeps the pitchers in order."

Ben Turner has some experience doing so. As they were growing up, the Turner brothers, including Luke, a junior in high school at Westminster Christian Academy, liked to compete. They played hockey in their basement, and playing on their knees didn't prevent some big hits. 

Ben Turner said it was always in good fun, though, and when it came to baseball he and Jacob Turner used their complementing positions to help each other improve.

"(Jacob) definitely made me better, and we pushed each other a lot," said Ben Turner with a smile. "It's so much fun being able to play with your brothers and growing with them."

While Jacob Turner pitched for Detroit's two Class A teams last season, going 6-5 and striking out 102 batters, Ben Turner played seven games for Missouri and started in one. He had four hits all year. 

But, when the brothers talked on the phone two or three times a week, the older brother still acted as the mentor.

"I just make sure he stays focused," Ben Turner said. "He hasn’t made it yet."

Ben Turner was the one with the 4.0 GPA in high school. He said that Jacob Turner was just as smart but more scatterbrained.

"Luke does a good job in school," he said, pausing. "Jacob, ... Jacob doesn't have to go to college now, so he never has to worry about it."

Jacob Turner has pitched in two spring training games with the major league team so far this spring, giving up five hits and one earned run in six innings. Nevertheless, when the brothers talk now, their accomplishments rarely come up.

"We talk about life, not really even baseball," Ben Turner said. "We're both pretty busy with everything we've got going on. I just see how he's doing and how everything's going."

What's apparent for the brother on the mound and the brother behind the plate is everything is going pretty well.

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