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Drew Rucinski’s journey from Ohio State to South Korea

ESPN introduced us to the Korean Baseball Organization earlier this week. One of the league’s pitching stars is former Ohio State hurler Drew Rucinski.

Miami Marlins Photo Day Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Right now, the options when it comes to watching sports are pretty much non-existent. The UFC is back holding fight cards again, but who knows how long that will last after it was revealed one of their fighters tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday. WWE and AEW has put on weekly shows without fans. Soon the PGA Tour and NASCAR will be returning to action, but there is still no timetable as to when we may see the NBA, NHL, and MLB get back to work.

Those who really need a sports fix got a boost earlier this week when ESPN announced they would be airing six KBO games per week. What is the KBO, you ask? Until earlier this week, I had no idea that the KBO is the Korean Baseball Organization. Originally slated to open their season in late March, the KBO pushed back opening day to Tuesday. The KBO is playing without fans in attendance, which is what fans of other sports around the world will have to look forward to when sports are deemed safe to return.

Now that you have just found out about the KBO, it shouldn’t surprise you that one of the best pitchers in the league is a former Ohio State Buckeye. Drew Rucinski pitched in 257.1 innings for the Buckeyes, which is the 16th-most in school history. By the time his Ohio State career had wrapped up, Rucinski was a four-time letterman, and posted a 22-13 record. Following a senior season in which he posted a 5-3 record with a 2.92 ERA, Rucinski was named Second Team All-Big Ten.

Following the conclusion of his Ohio State career, Rucinski signed a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Indians. Rucinski didn’t last too long in Cleveland’s organization, pitching just 37 innings in three stops between their A-ball and Rookie League teams. Following his short time with Cleveland, Rucinski would pitch for the Rockford in the Frontier League, which is an independent baseball league.

During his time with Rockford, Rucinski was able to showcase his skills, amassing a 7-4 record in 2012 with a 3.13 ERA, and following it up with a 2013 season where he posted a 2.88 ERA and struck out 101 batters in 100 innings. Rucinski’s efforts were enough to earn him a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Angels in August of 2013.

Things started to heat up for Rucinski in 2014, when he was named a Texas League All-Star for the Arkansas Travelers, which was the AA affiliate of the Angels. Rucinski would go on to make his MLB debut on July 10th, pitching an inning for the Angels. After heading back to Arkansas to close out the Texas League season, Rucinski would return to the club when rosters were expanded in September and make two other appearances.

2015 and 2016 would be a couple of tough years for Rucinski. During the 2015 season, Rucinski would make just four appearances for the Angels, posting an 0-2 record and 7.71 ERA during that time. Things weren’t much better in AAA with Salt Lake City for Rucinski, as he was 5-7 with a 5.69 ERA in 2015, and he was designated for assignment by the Angels on September 1st.

The Chicago Cubs took a flyer on Rucinski in 2016, but he continued to have issues in the Pacific Coast League, which is a hitter-friendly league. Rucinski was just 7-15 for the Iowa Cubs, with his ERA hitting 5.92, which was Rucinski’s worst as a professional when he pitched more than 10 innings for a team in a season.

2017 is where Rucinski started to turn things around. The Minnesota Twins signed Rucinski to a minor league contract after the 2016 season. There was an almost immediate turnaround for Rucinski, as he was able to move to the International League, which is a lot friendlier to pitchers. Rucinski was just 2-6 but he saw his ERA fall to 2.57 and his WHIP finished at a very impressive 1.01. The former Buckeye raised enough eyebrows to make it back to the majors for a couple appearances in May for the Twins.

After being released by the Twins, Rucinski’s next stop took him to Miami, but this is where he was able to see the most major league action of his career. Not only did Rucinski appear in 32 games for the Marlins, but he also was able to register his first MLB win after pitching 2.1 innings of relief against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 6th. Rucinski finished the year with a 4-2 record.

Even as he started to see some success with his baseball career at the major league level, Rucinski still wasn’t able to find a home. After bouncing around four organizations during his career, as well as spending a couple years in the Independent League, Rucinski took his talents across the Pacific Ocean for the 2019 season, signing with the NC Dinos.

Moving to a new country and having to learn a new language might be daunting to many, but if Rucinski was having any issues, he certainly didn’t show it when he toed the rubber. Rucinski was a workhorse for the Dinos, tossing 177 innings last year and finishing the year with a 9-9 record and 3.05 ERA. Rucinski was so good that he was named an All-Star in his first season in the league.

After a successful 2019, Rucinski decided to return to the Dinos for the 2020 season, where he’ll try and help the team win their first title in just their eighth year as part of the KBO. Rucinski’s stock continues to rise in South Korea, as he pitched the season opener for the Dinos, working six scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over the Samsung Lions. The next start for Rucinski was scheduled for very early Sunday morning on ESPN, but was pushed back to Tuesday after a rainout on Saturday.

So if you’re sports crazy like me, I suggest picking up interest in the KBO to get you through this tough time. Even though the hours when games are broadcasted aren’t ideal, ESPN is doing their best to try and help introduce us to the only game around right now. And if we are going to dive in to KBO action, what better way to do so than by rooting for the team that has a Buckeye? Hopefully Drew Rucinski will give us plenty to talk about with some tremendous pitching performances this year!