PDT Sports Editor
PIKETON — After three years of debate, there really was no debate. Piketon baseball standout Zach Farmer is the newest member of the Ohio State baseball team.
Thursday evening Farmer, with his mother and coaches and friends in attendance, signed his letter of intent to play collegiate baseball at the school he favored from the very beginning.
“It’s been a long, long process. I’ve had a lot of colleges call and a lot of letters. When I went on the road during the summer playing with the (Cincinnati) Flames, I had a lot of coaches came up to me and talk,” Farmer said. “There has been a lot of interest but I just felt like Ohio State was the best fit. They have great coaches there.”
Farmer’s coach at Piketon, Gene Bumgardner, said his lefty seemed most interested in Ohio State since the beginning of the recruiting process.
“I kind of knew from the start that he would be a Buckeye. There were a lot of schools that dangled that carrot out for him, but you are talking about major Division I baseball 60 miles from the house with whole family and friends able to watch him play,” Bumgardner said.
The interest between Farmer and coach Greg Beals of Ohio State was mutual.
“Before his sophomore year we took a visit in January and we went up and talked to them. He had an unofficial offer from them then,” Bumgardner said. “They’ve stayed true. Coach Beals, as soon as he got the job he contacted us. It’s just been a class recruiting effort with his entire staff.”
Over the course of his athletic career, playing Division I baseball has not been much of an ‘if’ for Farmer and his coaches, but rather ‘where.’
“Ever since Little League I have been dreaming about where to go and it’s been an exciting process,” Farmer said. “It’s finally here and it feels great.
“When I was a baby, my dad said he had a Wiffle ball and we would pass. When I was a year old he said I’d always throw it hard. It’s a God-given gift but I’ve put in a lot of work and training.”
Bumgardner first began hearing about Farmer’s talents when the southpaw was in middle school.
“Before I got the job I heard about Zach. My cousin had been umpiring through Little League and he’d tell me how good he was,” Bumgardner said. “Then when I got the job I had people telling me how good this eighth grader was and you hear that all the time and said, ‘yeah OK.’ Then when I saw him through in the junior high league I realized he had a special talent.”
Farmer is a two-time first team All-Ohio and three-time All-SVC selection through three seasons with the Redstreaks. He had a 9-3 record in 2012 with a 1.39 earned run average and also has batted over .500 in each of his seasons.
Even with the impressive states and accolades, Farmer remains humble about his next step.
“It’s amazing. Not many people get this chance. It’s truly a great thing,” he said. “And I’m glad I got it.”
His coach said leadership has never been a lacking trait for his senior hurler.
“He stayed pretty humble and understood his role on the team and became a leader,” Bumgardner said. “Those are the things that you expect a Division I kid to be and even as a freshman he’s been able to lead not only on the field but off the field.”
Ohio State is as glad to have Farmer as he is to be a Buckeye. Beals told the Ohio State athletics website Wednesday where he projects Farmer as a member of his ball club.
“Touted by most as the best pitching prospect in Ohio, Zach has an electric arm with a fastball clocked in the low 90s and the makings of a great breaking ball,” Beals said. “We look for Zach to compete for a rotation spot as a freshman.”
Beals told Farmer that he will be used as a utility player as well.
In the classroom, Farmer expressed his academic interest in animals.
“I’d like to work at a zoo or aquarium so I’d like to go into zoology,” he said.
Although Farmer still has another prep season to play, he has cemented his legend in southern Ohio baseball according to his coach.
“I’ll be honest, it’s not just here. I teach at Unioto and the kids there talk about him. He has made baseball exciting again in southern Ohio. There’s not many kids that come through that get to do what he has done,” Bumgardner said. “Now baseball is important again. We’ve always had support from our administration but it’s exciting now in the village where people talk about baseball for the first time since probably 1985.”
Farmer said credit should be shared with his Redstreak teammates.
“Without them I wouldn’t be here. There’s no ‘I’ in team,” Farmer said. “When we made our regional trips they had my back.”
With the recruitment process behind them, Bumgardner wants his star to go back to living a normal high school life until the professional baseball draft comes in the summer.
“Now he can concentrate on just being a kid and not have to worry about what he is going to do. He knows what he is going to do,” Bumgardner said. “The next thing is to go out and have a good year playing basketball and baseball and in June we will play with the draft and go from there.”
Bumgardner said no decision has been made on whether or not Farmer would consider signing a professional contract if he was drafted.
“There’s some people interested and we will see how it goes and let it play itself out. We can’t say yes and we can’t say no,” Bumgardner said. “I just want him to enjoy basketball now and not worry about it.”
For now, it’s all about the 2012-2013 academic and athletic year.
“In the spring we will play baseball and try to win the league since 1962 and try to get by Wheelersburg and win that state,” Bumgardner said.
Bob Strickley can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 298, or email@example.com.