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Not-So-Freshman Feature: Cole Rutherford moves cross country to fill the first base void

“The night before every game, I watch a baseball movie. One of my superstitions – it just gets me in the mode to play,” said Cole Rutherford. His favorite is For the Love of the Game. “It’s got my two favorite teams–Tigers and Yankees–a good actor, and a good story.”

Rutherford is Cornell’s newest addition to first base. The junior transfer played two seasons at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California – helping the Pirates win two state championships and a Perfect Game Junior College national championship in 2014 – before he made the cross coast jump to Cornell. “It’s definitely a little bit different than southern California,” said Rutherford. “It’s a little bit more cold. I’ve always been told the ball travels better when it’s warmer or when the air is thinner, but I’m not really sure. I haven’t seen any drastic changes.”

Moving to Ithaca from southern California isn’t the first time Rutherford had to make a big geographical change. The Rutherford family moved around quite a bit before they finally settled in Simi Valley, California. Before age six, Rutherford had lived in Michigan, Dubai, New Jersey, Seattle, and northern California. “My parents are in sales,” said Rutherford. “They just moved a lot. Once we got into school they stopped moving around and let my brother and I grow up in one place, which was nice.”

Rutherford started playing baseball at age five while living in northern California but was sidetracked for a bit when he broke his arm falling off a swing set. His true baseball career began after his family made their final move to Simi Valley where he played in the Simi Youth Baseball organization from age six to 14. “I grew up on those fields, and had a lot of fun, and played on a lot of good teams, and played with a lot of good players,” said Rutherford. “It was awesome.”

Baseball runs in Rutherford’s family. His little brother plays and his father played baseball at Eastern Michigan University for one year before focusing on football. The Rutherfords are a tight knit bunch and Rutherford credits his parents with helping him become the person he is – athletic and otherwise – today. “Athletic talents come from my mom and my dad,” said Rutherford. “My dad played football, baseball – he even played basketball in high school – and was just mister athlete. My mom bowled. That’s all she’s got…Honestly she’s awful too. It was really funny. 12-15 of us went bowling over winter break and she was giving all the girls lessons. She says, ‘You got to go thumb to nose. That’s how you do it. Thumb to nose.’ It was not working. It did not help.”

An ankle injury sustained last year at OCC in the ninth inning versus Santa Ana almost cost Rutherford his career. “I hit a single up the middle and was standing on first base,” said Rutherford. “The next guy hit a ball up the middle and I thought it was going to get through. Ended up not getting through, so I slid and slid late. My cleat got caught in the dirt and my body kept going, all 225 pounds of it. My foot stayed in the same place and my ankle just popped right out and rolled over. I landed on the ground, and looked at my foot. My leg was going one way and my foot was going the other. It was definitely a shocking sight to see. I would advise no one to do that.”

Fortunately, Rutherford’s ankle is no longer an issue: “The way I like to define it is ‘a new normal,’” said Rutherford. “It’ll never get back to where it was, but it won’t hinder me from doing everything that I like to do and playing the game, so that’s all that really matters… I hit a home run during the fall and it felt pretty good especially coming back from being injured. I didn’t have a lot of at bats and was nervous, and then was able to get lucky and put a good swing on a ball, and it went over the fence. I think it boosted my confidence that like, ‘Okay, I’m healthy. I can still play.’ I’m not worried as much about being injured and not being the same player that I was. It was nice to get that confidence back.”

Rutherford is definitely back to the same player he was before. Cornell opened the season this past weekend at the RussMatt Invitational in Florida. In his first time competing for the Big Red, Rutherford hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning to propel Cornell to a 7-5 victory over Northeastern in game two of the series.

Rutherford is excited to begin his Cornell career. “You’re not really sure how that’s going to go coming into a new team,” said Rutherford. “Everyone welcomed me, and made me feel part of the team from the get-go. They’ve all been awesome and the coaches too.”

“I think we have a very talented team and I’m excited to see how this season goes,” says Rutherford. “It will be fun.”

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