Runnels center fielder Collin Bueche is a guy who has a future in baseball. It just isn’t the future most high school players dream about.
“I plan to start umpiring this summer,” Bueche said. “I want to stay involved in the game. Baseball is a beautiful, wonderful game.”
Fifth-seeded Runnels (15-14) takes on No. 2 Northside Christian in the Division V title game set for noon Monday at Sulphur’s McMurry Park. There are so many emotions for Bueche. It will be his final game, and it comes about 14 months after doctors told him he would not play baseball again. The year before that, the Class C Raiders won just one game.
“This means a lot, not just for me but for the whole team,” Bueche said. “After we won one game two years ago, a couple of guys quit. A group of about eight of us — we were all freshmen and sophomore — stayed together. Being hurt and thinking I might not play again made me appreciate baseball more. I love every chance I’ve had to play. It is a gift.”
Bueche was one of Runnels’ starting pitchers a year ago. He started experiencing pain in his back. It was particularly painful during a start against French Settlement about 12 games into the season and that led to a series of doctor visits. The diagnosis was a fractured vertebrae.
“It was basically an overuse injury from the years I’ve played,” Bueche said. “I had to rest for six months. They came back and told me I could play again, but not pitch. And they told me there was no way I could play in college.”
The 6-foot-1, 155-pound Bueche plans to major in computer engineering at LSU. His objective now is to help the Raiders engineer a title-game win. One last time, Runnels coach Ben Young will depend on Bueche to set the tone as the leadoff hitter.
“He is relentless at the plate The other day against Claiborne Christian he faced a guy who is probably the best pitcher in Class B and C," Young said of Bueche. "He went out there and battled. He fouled off pitches and when he got one he liked, hit it down the line for a double. Collin believes he can get a hit off of anybody he faces. That confidence rubs off on everybody else.”
Bueche says his confident approach at the plate comes from a mix of competitiveness and knowledge of the game.
“Part of it is watching what the pitcher throws and how they throw," Bueche said. "The other part of it is not wanting a pitcher to beat me. I look at pitches and work until I figure out how to get on base.”
Could there be any better way to go out than in a championship game? Bueche doesn’t see one.
“I'll love every minute I get to play and want to make the most of it," Bueche said.