BUCKTOWN - After closing out his high school career as the captain and senior leader of the Owen J. Roberts baseball team, George Kochu seems to have found the perfect college fit.
The Wildcats shortstop has accepted a scholarship offer from Division II Chestnut Hill College, where baseball will be taking a huge step up the ladder, going from a club sport to varsity next spring under first-year head coach Robert Spratt.
And Kochu, who was the Wildcats' leading hitter this year with a .434 average, loves the challenge of being part of the building process.
"I looked at that as an opportunity for me to help build a strong foundation for this team, where in years I can look back and say, 'I was part of the foundation for that team that's successful now,'" he said.
"The coach is young, he's enthusiastic, very energetic, and he's as excited as I am about this team. He told me he's out there looking for the best players, players he can build the team around and who will be with him for four years. He wants players who are willing to take leadership roles even though they may only be freshmen."
It was those leadership qualities Spratt spotted in Kochu.
"I went to an all-star baseball academy in West Chester and Bob Spratt was there, noticed me and sent me an e-mail," Kochu said. "My parents recognized the name of the school because my aunt went there, said it was a good school, and I should look into it. So I did and decided to go there."
Academics had a lot to do with it. It was "50-50," Kochu said when asked what came first when he made his choice - academics or baseball?
"I wanted to have the best of both worlds," he said. "Good academics and a baseball team I could play on. So it wasn't like I looked for one and stumbled across the other."
He had checked out some other schools.
"I was looking around, at St. Joseph's and schools like that I was interested in," he said. "My major is biochemistry, and Chestnut Hill has a very good science program. And the fact that it's a small school means they can be more individualized in the way they teach with 20 or 30 kids per class instead 50 or 60 at a big school. And with the numbers smaller, there can be more attention paid to me as an individual."
And it all started coming together while Kochu was having the time of his life on the OJR baseball fields, pushing him even more in the direction of Chestnut Hill.
"Because as a captain I had the opportunity to be the leader of the team and have everybody look up to me as a leader," he said. "And that's what I really like to do. My past two years I've always been the one who had to look up to the older kids. This year, I was the leader and everyone was looking up to me to go out and get it done."
Kochu, named to the PAC-10 first team as an infielder, also played golf for the Wildcats. But baseball has always been No. 1 for him.
"Because it's the kind of sport where you're not going to be great all the time, you're going to make mistakes, you're going to fail a lot, and it requires you to be strong in both your spirit and mind to come out every day knowing that you may fail and still march forward and still just go for it. So you have to give it your best effort every time," he said.
Kochu fell in love with baseball at first, or when he was 10 playing in Coventry Little League.
"Back in the beginning, I never really wanted to play organized baseball," he said.
His father, George Sr., changed that.
"He kind of forced me to play Coventry Little League and playing on a team," he said. "I'm glad for that now because if he hadn't, I wouldn't be here. My dad never played, but he always loved watching the Phillies. He's just always been a fan of the sport."
Kochu's father is now president of the Chester County American Legion League, and knows there is no need to push his son these days.
"He doesn't really need to force me to do anything because he knows I'm capable of going out there and playing," the younger Kochu concluded.