Fifty-seven times in his career, Northern Illinois senior outfielder Jordin Hood has stepped up to the plate and taken one for the team.
Fifty-seven times in less than four seasons, Hood has stood in, looked the pitcher in the eye and promptly been hit by a pitch in the back, the ribs, the hands and elbows. Fifty-seven times. A school record set this season that he keeps adding to, Hood has developed more than a knack for wearing a pitch.
"I'm a little bit on the plate and pitchers try and brush me back a little bit," Hood said. "That's generally how people pitch to me. I like to get my hands extended with my swing so they try and come in."
And they keep coming in, pitcher after pitcher. Hood takes the hit and jogs to first base every time, some occasions a little slower than others.
"I've had a few tough ones," Hood said. "A couple on the hand. A couple of spots near the elbow, but not too bad."
It's a remarkable stroke of good luck that Hood has avoided even a minor injury, much less a serious one, in each of the 57 times he's been hit. Former Cubs infielder Adam Greenberg was famously beaned by a pitch in his first and only major league plate appearance. Greenberg reportedly still suffers from vertigo as a result.
The worst that's happened to Hood is a couple of bad bruises on his hands. The right-handed batter started wearing an elbow guard on his left elbow last season, when he was hit by a pitch 23 times.
"Anytime it's coming toward muscle, I just try and turn and wear it," Hood said. "But you definitely want to get your hands out of the way."
NIU coach Ed Mathey said a majority of the time, Hood has been hit by curveballs, which Hood said he prefers because of the lack of velocity.
"He picks up the spin early and realizes what it is and that's allowed by rule as long as he's not fishing out there trying to get it. He just doesn't back out," Mathey said. "He's learned how to give with it a little bit so it takes some of the sting out."
It takes fighting against the instinct to bail out of the way when a 85 mph pitch is headed straight for you, but Hood manages to do that. In past years, Hood picked up a few things from former NIU infielder Bobby Stevens, who held the previous school record of getting hit by a pitch 45 times.
"Playing with Bobby for a few years I definitely watched his approach," Hood said. "Any way to get on base is helping out the team. I learned that from him. If I can get on base on a hit-by-pitch, then that works out for me."
With Hood and Stevens going back and forth in the hit-by-pitch category, NIU assistant coach Steve Joslyn started posting a chart in the Huskies' dugout of hit by pitches and sacrifice bunts. Anytime someone gets hit by a pitch – usually Hood – or lays down a sacrifice bunt, someone in the dugout updates the chart.
Mathey said his players have responded to it and with Hood and Stevens setting the tone, getting hit by a pitch has become "a badge of pride" for the Huskies.
The other effect on Hood has been that because he stands in and doesn't mind getting hit by a pitch, his on-base percentage has always been high – it was at .404 entering this past weekend's series against Central Michigan and was .474 last season and he puts himself in a position to score a lot of runs. His 35 runs are the highest on the team by 10.
"The positive side of it is you won't see him bailing out on breaking balls that are coming in on the inner-half where a guy is trying to get him to move his feet and then sneak one in on the inside corner," Mathey said.