He says he'd rather be a hitter.
Ron Stewart, the ace of the Harvard baseball team's pitching staff, says he would rather bang out base hits than keep the other team from getting any.
"I really despise the DH rule," the soft-spoken senior says. "I don't feel like a ballplayer if I'm not hitting. And I've always thought I was a better hitter than pitcher."
Stewart can certainly make a case for his hitting abilities. In his senior year at Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri, he batted .482 and was All-State at second base as well as on the mound.
"Harvard recruited me as a pitcher, but when I first came here I was hoping to play in the field too," the 21-year-old Stewart says. "But I've only been to the plate once in a Harvard uniform."
Stewart played two summers in the Cape Cod League and got a chance to prove himself in the batter's box one last time. He became the team's DH, after the guys who were supposed to fill the role didn't arrive on time.
In Ron's first game, the opposing pitcher threw a two-hitter and Ron had both hits. The next day he went 2-for-4 and in the following game he hit the team's first home run. But when the regular hitters showed up, he went back to the bench.
"After that, I only got to pinch hit, and I've never been a good pinch hitter," Stewart says. "Ever since then, I've been solely a pitcher." Lucky for Harvard.
This season, Stewart has regained the top form he demonstrated in his freshman year when he was the team's leading pitcher. Because of his experience and pitching cool, Stewart is the guy Crimson coach Alex Nahigian counts on to go out against the top teams in the East and come back with a win. Stewart's record so far this year is 3-2, including a crucial win over a very tough Navy team. And when EIBL league-leader Cornell comes into town a week from Friday, Nahigian will send Stewart to the mount to put out the Big Red's fire.
"We're very pleased with Ron's pitching this year because he's so consistent out there," the coach said yesterday. "He works as hard as anybody, he's got the experience, and he's going to pitch against Cornell."
Stewart's teammates echo their coach's confidence.
"Ron's a very smart pitcher as opposed to being a thrower," first baseman Mark Bingham says. "He's intense out there, never loses his cool, and you know he's giving it his best whether he's doing well or getting hit."
Catcher Joe Wark has to work more closely with Stewart than anyone else on the field and says he always feels comfortable behind the plate when Ron's out there.
"Ron's a real competitor out there and he really likes to challenge the hitters," Wark said. "He's the kind of guy who goes out and grits his teeth and gets the job done."
On the mound, Ron's intensity is unparalleled. When he gets into a jam, he takes it personally. He loves to win and hates even to be in the dugout on the days after a loss.