The streets of Athens are engraved into some of A.J. Rausch’s earliest memories. The first time he stepped onto the mahogany bricks as a child, Ohio felt like a second home to him.
Rausch has had a connection to Ohio since the day he was born. Almost all of the outfielder’s family members attended university at Ohio, including his parents, sisters and cousins. Rausch’s parents brought him and his sisters to Ohio’s campus often when they were growing up to show them the place that was such an influential part of their family’s life.
One thing Rausch remembers about the campus is how comfortable he felt each time he visited. When his family would make the trip from Columbus to attend football and basketball games, shop along Court Street, and take pictures on College Green, Rausch always felt at ease.
What made him so comfortable was the sense of belonging he felt at Ohio. Even when he was still in middle school, Rausch could feel the sense of community in the air. It was a feeling he never forgot, especially when it was time to pick his own university to attend.
While going on his college visits, Rausch looked for two things: a school where he felt at home and a school where he could play baseball. The redshirt freshman had been working towards his dream of playing collegiate baseball since he was four years old, and wasn’t willing to give it up yet. When he started getting offers from colleges to play baseball going into his sophomore year of high school, Rausch was ecstatic. His hard work was paying off.
“Good things happen to those who work hard,” Rausch said. “That's my motto that I had from last year and kind of what I always had through high school and everything like that. It's just to continue to work and the more work you put in, the more success that you're gonna have on the field.”
Around the fall of his junior year, Rausch got an offer from Ohio University. After visiting so many times, he knew Ohio was everything he wanted in a school. He was already familiar with campus and he’d been following the success of the baseball program for years.
Rausch knew he would fit right in. About a week after receiving the offer, he committed and made it official. Just like his parents and his sister, Rausch was a Bobcat.
Ever since he joined the team, Rausch has never felt like he didn’t belong. Even when his coaches made the decision to redshirt him last season, he still felt like part of the team. During that time, Rausch learned how to adjust from high school baseball to college baseball. The year off didn’t hurt him, it helped him grow.
“You get the one year where you can kind of just embrace everything,” Rausch said. “Work out with the college athletic trainers (and) lifting coaches. I definitely got stronger. I was able to work on my swing, improve my game and now here I am playing in my second year.”
In his first year on the field, Rausch has grown even closer to the team. Playing and traveling together has bonded them even more. Not only that, but Rausch has been able to truly make a mark on his new family. He is one of Ohio’s most trusted players at the plate, totaling 32 hits and scoring 21 runs so far this season.
Rausch is happy with his decision to play at Ohio and the success he has had so far this season. The people he's met and experiences he’s had in his first couple years as an official Bobcat are ones he will never forget.
“When you go here, it's kind of like you're part of a family,” Rausch said. “Other schools are going to say that too, … but like I truly feel like once you go to OU or you graduate from OU, it's like a second family to you.”