July 10, 2013When they were 6 years old, former North Harrison baseball players Collin Book and Josh Wenning found themselves on the same infield. Almost 15 years later, the pair is still playing on the same team and in the same positions. However, their days of playing together will come to an end in early August, as they will be too old to compete in the high school summer leagues.
"Our parents have kind of pushed us," Josh said during an interview last week in the North Harrison dugout. "I didn't know we'd be shortstops even through college. I expected to play with him this long."
Josh Wenning, right, and Collin Book, who have played baseball together since they were 6 years old, will finish their time together on the field in August. Photo by Wade Bell
"I expected us both (to play together) through high school," Book said. "It's really been a privilege. It turned out that we'd get to play for the same summer team. We don't play for the same college, but it's been Josh and Collin up the middle for years."
Book said there was a time in his early teens when he played the catcher position. That lasted only a brief time, however, and from there it was Book mostly at shortstop and Wenning at second. Both players said they couldn't imagine playing any other positions.
"I wouldn't play another other spot," said Wenning, who plays shortstop for Indiana University Southeast.
"Yeah," Book was quick to add. "There's plenty of action."
Currently, the pair, who graduated from North Harrison in 2012, is playing in the American Legion League for Floyds Knobs Post 42. The team has been successful, having won its first 13 games. It now has a record of 15-4.
"American Legion has everything from (high school) freshman to going on to sophomore in college," Book said. "From people who just graduate from high school to people who are just going into high school. It's not a travel team (where) you have to pay a lot of money. We still travel, but we don't pay the big bucks. We're sponsored by the Legion program."
"What they do is bring in kids from Floyd (Central), Charlestown, Clarksville, North Harrison, the surrounding schools, Jeffersonville sometimes, New Albany, if we need them," he said. "They bring in, hopefully, the best players from those teams."
The Floyd Knobs team has played in tournaments in Richmond and Evansville and has hosted a tournament at Floyd Central. The season-ending tournament is set up the same as the state high school tourney, with sectional, regional and state competitions. The winner of the state final goes on to play in the national tournament.
"We hope to get past regional, which we play at Terre Haute North," Book said. "We played them in the regional finals last year and lost to them."
Book and Wenning said they've been playing together long enough to know what the other will do before he does it.
"A lot of times it will be a look," Book said. "You'll look, and you'll kind of know. It helps out a lot. It's very comfortable with each other out there. You've got that much more confidence, whether you're turning a double play or whether you might have to glove-flip to somebody, barehand it or whatever. It's definitely a comfort factor."
"We still talk, but there's most things (where) that will happen," Wenning said. "Like a ground ball will be hit to us and we don't have to say anything. You know what the other one will do."
One thing helping the Floyds Knobs team be successful is team chemistry. Wenning and Book said the comfort factor with the other players came as though they had been playing together for years.
"Some of these people I've only known (since) the beginning of Legion, which was in June," Wenning said. "I feel like I've known them for years."
"It's really easy to get along on this team and get where you're able to be comfortable with each other," Book said. "It's just the fact you haven't played as many games together. They're all good guys."
As with most things, there have been good times and bad times during their playing years. Wenning said of one of the best came during regional play in last year's high school state tournament.
"I made a diving catch and came up and tossed it to (Book) and (he) made it barehanded and threw it across for a double play to end the inning," he said. "I look at him and go, 'We're really good.' "
"We thought we were pretty good at that point," Book said with a laugh. "That was probably one of my best, too."
Book recalled a worst/ best moment when he was in his rookie league.
"I think I was 6 years old," he said. "I had missed, like, three or four ground balls that game. I couldn't catch anything that day. His dad, Brian (Wenning), was the coach, and he had moved me all over the field because I was messing up so much.
"After the game, my mom was so mad at me and embarrassed and everything. I walked up to her and asked her if I could have a purple slushie. I didn't know any better. Then, she realized I was 6 years old. We were coming back home from Salem and we stop at Morgan (Elementary School), and I said, 'What are we doing?' She said, 'Get your glove.' She went to the field, and she was just hitting ground balls to me real hard.
"We had a tournament up there, and his dad was a board member so he went up there and saw my mom up there hitting smoking ground balls at me. That was one of the bittersweet kind of moments."
Wenning plays college baseball at IU Southeast, an NAIA school, while Book plays at Southeast Illinois, a Division 1 junior college. That means neither player will play against the other during their college years. It has been different, however, not having the other one on the field.
"You get used to somebody over years and years, and you have to come together with another person, it's different," Wenning said. "They like doing different things. It's extremely difficult. … It takes a long time."
"My second baseman was from Salt Lake City, Utah, this year," Book said. "Just everything about him was different. He was 6-2, a little different target to throw to, but a little bit slower. You've just got to play a little bit different and adjust to his tendencies, and he adjusted to my tendencies. We eventually got used to each other. The shortstop and second basemen relationship is like the pitcher and catcher."
Though their years of being on the baseball field together is coming to an end, both hope to stay involved in the sport, in a coaching perspective.
"Down the road probably," Wenning said. "I definitely can't give it up forever."
"I'd like to be a Little League coach someday," Book said. "After playing in college, I don't know if I'd have enough baseball knowledge to be a high school coach or college coach, but I think I'd rather go to Little League."