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Three-Year Knight Poised to Lead Beavers.

February 23, 2008

Erik Ammon of OSU is True Knight in Shining Armor

Three-Year Knight Poised to Lead Beavers.Erik Ammon: A True Knight in Shining Armor.

-By Matt Wilhelmsen

Senior catcher Erik Ammon is the epitome of patience, commitment and dedication. While waiting in the wings the past two seasons at OSU, Erik learned from as well as taught arguably the Beavers greatest catcher, 2007 first-round draft pick Mitch Canham.

Mr. Canham is now property of the San Diego Padres. Finally, it's Ammo's time.

The three-year Knight is embracing his new leadership role with OSU and is chomping at the bit to start the 2008 season. He's just as eager to show the world that he belongs and lead his beloved Beavers to a fourth consecutive College World Series appearance.

To say that Erik has a passion for the game of baseball would be an understatement.

A student of the game as far back as he can remember; with the support of his parents Bob and Jane, Erik is realizing a dream.

As a youngster, shadowing his older brother Tom, Erik always competed versus a higher level of competition. Lettering all four years at North Salem High School, he began working out with the high school squad while his brother was only a freshman.

After starring four years at North Salem, he left the mainland and headed to University of Hawaii where he started both at catcher and in leftfield as a freshman for the Rainbow Warriors.

He came home that summer (for good) to play his inaugural season with the Knights. His defense was exceptional as the frosh threw out 13 of 25 attempted base stealers and handled a pitching staff that featured 7 future pros including OSU CWS star Daniel Turpen.

Following his stellar 2005 summer, Erik transferred to Oregon State. Three years later and with two National Championships under his belt, Ammon would love nothing more than a three-peat and a shot at the next level this summer.

With the departure of Mitch Canham and Darwin Barney, Ammon is being asked to fill a leadership void. He's also responsible for mentoring and guiding a young and talented pitching staff. Returnees and pre-season All-American candidates Mike Stutes and Jorge Reyes and last summer's Knights' centerfielder Braden Wells are also leadership candidates.

Ammon's pitching staff will feature primarily underclassmen; five of those being true freshman, including ex-Knights' closer and Baseball America's top Pac-10 newcomer Greg Peavey. Handling such an inexperienced staff would be difficult for even the most experienced of catchers, but Erik is more than ready for the challenge. He's prepped for two years as Canham's understudy and spent three summers polishing his game with the Knights.

When asked what it's going to take to repeat Ammon said, "Coach Casey always tells us that the '07 team is hanging on the wall. We were who we were last year, but that's over and done with now. It's time for us as the '08 club to make a name for ourselves and create our own legacy. I know it's going to take a few guys to lead this team back to Omaha and I think we're on the right track."

The Beavers success over the last three years is no mystery - player and coaching leadership.

"Coach Casey is a flat-out great coach," said Erik. "He knows how to handle each of his players separately and what is even more amazing is his efforts off the field. He's the type of guy that will work with a player anytime; day or night, rain or shine, you name it, just because he wants to see you improve."

It is that kind of devotion that circulates through the clubhouse as a whole, giving OSU reason to believe they will be making another trip to Omaha, Nebraska this summer.

Playing the game of baseball is only half the enjoyment for both the Beavers and Knights student-athletes. The relationships developed in the dugout, on the field, at hotels and on bus trips are what really turn these boys into the men of tomorrow.

"The relationships I've built with my teammates and coaches on both teams, they are something I'll never forget. It wasn't like we were just a team of guys who went out and played together - we did everything together. We were more of a family than anything, and I really believe that these relationships were bonded through the hard work we shared as a team," said Ammon.

Looking back on the last three years of his collegiate career, Erik is thankful to those who helped make his dreams a reality. "I was honored to be a part of the Knights family and want to wish everyone that comes through the program the best. If I could tell them anything, I would advise them to take advantage of this unique opportunity. Rarely do you get a program like this that puts so much emphasis on player development over the summer. It has the relaxed feel of summer ball, yet everyone is on the same page - we're here to play baseball and we're here to win!"

Oregon State opened the 2008 season yesterday vs. #3 ranked Vanderbilt in the DeMarini Invitational at Packard Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. Ammon was the National Champs opening day catcher. Erik collected a single and scored the Beavers lone run in OSU's 8-1 loss to the Commodores. OSU gets back after it Saturday night vs. Miami of Ohio and finishes tournament play vs. Pac-10 rival Arizona State Sunday at 2 pm.