Tucker Tharp has no thorough explanation as to why everything clicked for him his senior year as an outfielder for the Kansas Jayhawks.
What he does know is what he feels, and that is gratitude for the coaching staff sticking with him to the point where he could succeed — all the way to the professional level.
After three years of solid-but-not-spectacular play for KU, Tharp emerged as a leader in all aspects in 2014. The Fairview grad was named captain to start, then became a steady bat and an even more reliable fielder as the season sailed by.
When all was said and done, the Jayhawks had made the NCAA tournament and Tharp hit .310 with a career-best six home runs and a team-leading .467 slugging percentage. For Tharp, the want to perform for his younger teammates was all he could offer for the influx of production.
“It’s a really good question, and I would have to say that a lot of guys just look up to you as a senior because you’ve been around,” said Tharp, who also made zero errors in 152 chances in the field. “They expect you to do well. Being a senior, on the field for four years, having that experience from previous years just takes over … not worrying too much about what you do and just playing. Let things unfold.
“The coaches were very loyal to me, and they had me out there to be a leader and to compete. I kept getting chances to play the next day, and that’s all I could ask for.”
As Tharp’s season blossomed, so did his chances of continuing his career beyond college. His first three seasons saw him hit a combined .252 with five total home runs and 40 RBIs, numbers that wouldn’t stand up on a draft board.
His senior campaign, though, was enough to make at least one team look. The New York Mets were the only MLB squad to generate some interest in the 5-foot-10, 197-pounder, and on the third day of the draft they made him their 30th-round pick.
On June 14 he made his debut with the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets’ short-season minor league squad. Playing in front of 9,000 fans for the home opener, Tharp batted leadoff and went 0 for 3 with a walk.
Talk about a whirlwind couple of weeks.
“It’s been difficult getting used to the city, just getting my bearings as far as that goes … but to lead off my first game was great,” Tharp said. “It’s a situation I just never thought I’d be in earlier this year.
“I hadn’t been in contact with very many teams, and when that Saturday came around (final day of the draft) I thought I’d have a slim chance to get picked up. I was just kind of going about my day when I got the phone call. It’s a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.”
Fairview coach Rick Harig counted six other players of his who had made at least the affiliated minor leagues, but he certainly holds Tharp in the highest regards. One of the few four-year varsity letterwinners for the Knights, Tharp had the “It” factor that Harig has rarely seen.
“He’s got some talent, and obviously the Mets believe that,” Harig said. “His numbers showed it this year, and they might not have showed that the previous year. It’s high level baseball and it took him a while to acquire that level. Once he did, he settled in.
“Now he has that opportunity at the highest level. The minors is a grind, but he’s a kid that’s built for the grind. You get the feeling he’ll make a good run of it.”
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