The highest regard for a certain New York Yankees icon is why every baseball jersey Alex Krupa dirties carries the same number.
“Derek Jeter,” said Krupa, the former Greenwood Community High School standout, of his affinity for the No. 2.
“He’s why I wear it.”
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Opponents of Iowa Western Community College can thank a future first-ballot Hall of Famer for giving “2” a starring role in every scouting report manufactured.
Quite simply, the sophomore left fielder has been too — make that “2” — difficult to keep off the bases.
“We have had some great teams here at Iowa Western and some great players. But a guy like Alex being able to hit for offense and being able to be on third base in possibly two pitches, all of that is game changing,” 13th-year Reivers coach Marc Rardin said.
“And I haven’t had too many kids I would tell people that he is game-changing in the field.”
Iowa Western’s left-handed lead-off hitter has combined blazing speed (3.6 seconds from batter’s box to first base) and bat skills to lead his 17-3 team in a variety of significant offensive categories, including batting average (.532), hits (33), runs (22) and steals (10).
Krupa, who was very good as a freshman, is even better this time around.
“It’s just understanding the game more. Slowing the game down. I feel like the same person, but I feel like I’m a better player,” said Krupa, the Daily Journal’s Player of the Year for its 2013 All-County Team.
“We are a very fast team that likes to put pressure on the defense, but we have some power, too.”
Iowa Western CC is coming off its 15th Junior College World Series appearance since 1975. Rardin’s club has won three of the past five national championships, including last season’s 56-11 campaign.
Krupa, along with four of his teammates, was named to the All-Tournament Team.
Iowa Western currently rides a 14-game winning streak. In that time it is averaging 9.5 runs per game, with Krupa delivering no less than two base hits and at least one stolen base in many of the victories.
In November, Krupa signed a National Letter of Intent to play his junior and senior seasons at Indiana University.
Krupa originally signed with the Hoosiers while in high school but feels fortunate to have taken the scenic route getting to Bloomington where, yes, he’ll attempt to secure jersey No. 2.
“I think it’s better this way because it gave me a chance to mature,” Krupa said.
Selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 19th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft, Krupa understands he might eventually have a choice to make should he continue posting big numbers.
“I know Alex would like the opportunity to sign professionally, but who wouldn’t like that option? He has a great program to go to next year in Indiana University. Coach (Chris) Lemonis and I have a great relationship, and he and I have a lot of similarities on how we play the game,” Rardin said.
“You can see in a year-and-a-half where Alex has matured on the field and really lets the game come to him. He understands his strengths and weaknesses and can slow the game down internally to have great at-bats and run the bases aggressively.”
Yet when it comes to his baseball future, Krupa refuses to think too far ahead. He’s enjoying where he’s at and looks forward to playing against Big Ten Conference competition in the near future.
“I don’t worry about (being drafted) too much. I focus on school, but if something like that were to happen it would be a bonus,” Krupa said. “Indiana will be my first priority.”
Loyalty like that might even make Jeter smile.