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J.J. Turbin pitches for the Coeur d’Alene Vikings, but will play outfield at Oregon State. (Kathy Plonka photos / The Spokesman-Review)

CdA’s Turbin combines athleticism, smarts, faith

It’s understandable why the Oregon State University baseball team recruited J.J. Turbin.

The two-time NCAA Division I champion Beavers found much to like about the Coeur d’Alene senior. To begin with, Turbin is at the head of his class athletically and academically.

It’s obvious on first glance that he’s the complete package. Dive a little deeper and the thing that speaks volumes about Turbin – over and beyond his athletic gifts and academic aptitudes – is his Christian faith.

“God’s the most important thing in my life,” Turbin said. “Everything I do, I do to glorify Him.”

Even if everything Turbin has touched in athletics hasn’t turned out golden.

Consider football. It’s the sport Turbin had the least amount of success in – at least in terms of wins. But it’s the sport he most cherishes from his high school experience.

He was a two-year starter at quarterback. Last fall, the Vikings were picked by most to win the Inland Empire League championship. But CdA fell well short of expectations.

“I’ll miss football the most out of everything in high school because even though we didn’t have the success we wanted, it’s the relationships that I built with the coaches that I’ll never forget,” Turbin said. “I learned way more about life in football because of the situations we went through.”

Turbin, who carries a 4.1 grade-point average, has been a regular participant since his freshman year in a weekly Bible study through a local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. This year, he started a Bible study at school for all interested students, athlete or not, that meets once a week for 45 minutes before school on Thursdays.

He gets up every day at 5:30 and has personal devotions before heading to school for extra batting practice. Then later in the day after practice, he stays for more extra batting practice.

Disciplined best describes Turbin. The term “short cut” is not in his vocabulary.

“I’ve always told him he’s like a 40-year-old man,” CdA football coach Shawn Amos said. “He thinks different than a normal high school kid. He’s very mature, focused, driven. He’s willing to forego all the things a lot of the kids his age are involved in – parties, staying up late, whatever. Peer pressure doesn’t affect him. He’s the kind of kid who gets what the program is about.”

First-year baseball coach Nick Rook agrees. Rook, also a CdA graduate, wasn’t a hellion during his high school days, but wasn’t one of those who necessarily followed the straight-and-narrow path either.

Today, Rook and Turbin share a kindred spirit in more ways than one. They both attend the same church, and they’re both perfectionists with Type A personalities.

“His hard work and discipline is off the charts,” Rook said. “Some people lead by talking and encouraging. J.J. is less talk and leads more by example. It’s phenomenal.”

Turbin plays center field and pitches out of necessity for the Vikings (he’ll be the first to tell anyone he’s not a pitcher). He was recruited as an outfielder by OSU.

His .449 batting average is second best behind Devon Austin (.528). Turbin recently broke the school record in runs (39) and has 20 stolen bases, one shy of the school record. His 4-1 pitching record leads the team.

It was almost by accident that OSU, which won national titles in 2006 and ’07, discovered Turbin. A Beavers assistant coach attended a CdA game last spring to see another player. Turbin impressed the coach.

Turbin was later asked to make an unofficial visit to OSU. He did so a week after the season, and OSU offered a scholarship. He made an oral commitment soon thereafter and signed a letter of intent in November.

“Of the 10 players they’ve signed, I have the least amount of accolades,” Turbin said. “John Wooden has a quote about not saying you’re better than somebody, but that you’re just as good. I want to show I’m just as good (as the other signees).”

For a second straight summer, Turbin will play for the Spokane Dodgers select team.

“He’s probably the most competitive kid I’ve ever been around,” said Dodgers coach Jeff Simmelink, who will head up the Spokane team for a ninth year. “His speed and athleticism are obvious things that OSU liked. But what will make him stick and succeed there is the way he goes about his business. He does everything with character and with thought.”

Turbin wants to major in engineering. But his long-term aspiration is to be a minister. The reason he’s going to study engineering is because he wants to have a skill he can use in ministry. His dream is to be involved in overseas mission work where he can help build water systems, bridges and roads in Third World countries.

He job-shadowed Real Life Ministries founder and lead pastor Jim Putman for a recent senior project.

“I feel like I’m called to be a pastor,” said Turbin, whose uncle, Greg Turbin, is one of a dozen pastors at Real Life in Post Falls.

In the meantime, J.J. will play baseball as far as it will take him.

“I’ve wanted to be a pro since I was 4 years old,” he said. “Going to OSU is an opportunity to get my education paid for. Anything beyond that is God’s will.”

Amos knows that Turbin will be successful in life no matter what comes beyond baseball.

“I don’t know how well he’ll do at Oregon State, but I know there will be nobody that outworks him,” Amos said. “I can guarantee you this – he will be an excellent husband and father. What’s more important than that?”