MADISON — It didn’t take long before Nathan Kuhn faced his first dose of adversity in his first season of baseball at West Virginia State University.
During a scrimmage game during fall ball last September, Kuhn took a heater off of his foot during his last at-bat of the game.
“I was in the box against our closer and he throws about 90 mph,” Kuhn said. “He got me down in the count 1-2 and he threw a fastball that ran in and it hit me in the foot and I didn’t want to jump out of the way because with two strikes, I wanted to take my base. It hurt really bad when it happened and I went and told my coach the next day that something wasn’t right.”
The young slugger’s intuition was on-point. An X-ray revealed that Kuhn had indeed fractured his foot.
“I was in a boot for six weeks,” he said. “By the time I was completely healed, our fall ball practices had ended and I was redshirted.”
Kuhn was a star at Scott High, where he was part of a 2019 squad that reached the Class AA state baseball tournament. The All-State selection primarily defended as a third baseman but also took reps in the outfield, which he says that all indications show this will be a trend that continues for the Yellow Jackets.
In his senior season at Scott, Kuhn was a near-flawless defender while mashing .560 to lead the county in batting average. He notched eight doubles, six triples and four home runs. Kuhn scored 40 runs on the season and additionally was also 3-0 on the mound with a 2.53 ERA in 17 relief appearances as a pitcher.
He was the Coal Valley News Co-Player of the Year two years in a row in addition to his Cardinal Conference and state accolades.
Kuhn said that, as a hitter, he immediately recognized that his play would have to be elevated at the Division II level.
“What struck me immediately was that pitchers could control the strike zone very well,” he said. “In high school I would work counts and try to get in my count, but at the college level, I need to be more aggressive in counts and when I see my pitch early, I need to be ready to go and get it.”
The hitter’s batting stance has changed from what would be considered a lower-center-of-gravity-inspired crouch to more of an upright approach.
“My swing is virtually the same, but my new stance will generate more power,” he said. “Being more upright disturbed my timing and I had to really adjust to timing more than anything else. Being straight up, my leg kick starts at a different time and I feel like I have a good feel for it now and it looks and feels more natural.”
Kuhn said an additional advantage to his new stance came in reaching pitches he previously struggled with.
“I can get my bat head on a ball down and in much easier than in my old stance,” he said.
With the team’s season suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kuhn is working toward the 2021 season.
“With my dad (Brett Kuhn) being my coach in high school, I feel like I have that background as a coach’s kid that I am coachable and open to instruction,” he said. “Changing my stance wasn’t easy, but I’m determined to give my coaches the results they are looking for.”
The infielder has been running the hills to maintain his cardio and doing tennis ball drills inside his parent’s home to keep his hand skills sharp.
An honor student, Kuhn said he has sharpened his study habits and adjusted to his new environment. He is maintaining a 4.2 GPA.
“I’m living on campus and I have two roommates who are also baseball players,” he said. “We’ve become really close and it has been good for me. I was nervous about campus life early on, but it has gone really well.”
Kuhn looks to be a certified public accountant when his college days are done. He might even take a page from the book of his old man.
“I’d love to get into coaching, and it is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I think that is inside of me, for sure.”
Along with the rest of the country, Kuhn is practicing textbook social distancing and he has caught up with his old teammates at Scott.
“I’m ready to go back to school and play some baseball,” he said. “I feel like I have a lot to prove and accomplish.”