Unique Signing Day for Gushue

It started as a joke. Taylor Gushue's dad was originally kidding when he brought up to Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan the possibility of his son graduating early and joining the Gators this spring. The conversation turned from sarcasm to serious. While the 2012 class members signed their letters of intent Wednesday to play for UF in 2013, Gushue did so to play for the Gators this spring.

"My dad called Coach O'Sullivan and he kind of jokingly mentioned it to him," Taylor Gushue said Wednesday after signing. "Coach O'Sullivan said if he was serious, then we could make it happen. My dad just said that it would be awesome. It started going from there."

Gushue had to make sure his academics were in order to make the move possible, but it wasn't that simple. There were still different aspects for the 6-2, 190-pound catcher to think about. If he decided to make the move, it would mean being forced to grow up a lot faster than most high school seniors.

He would be giving up his senior season at Calvary Christian Academy, as well as his senior prom and other aspects of the final year of high school. Sacrificing those for the chance to start his college career at Florida was something the Gushue family decided was too tough to turn down.

"As a family, we thought and prayed about it a lot," Gushue said. "We turned it over a bunch of times and decided that it was probably the best thing for my career to get up there and be a part of the program."

When the decision was made, Gushue had to change his school schedule for the fall. He came into the fall with 24 credits, needing 26 to graduate high school. The only adjustment made to his course load was adding one more history and English class, giving him two classes on each subject this fall.

When Gushue put the pen to paper Wednesday morning in front of 12-15 family members and a room full of his friends, the excitement was hard to miss. Playing college baseball at a major program is every high school player's dream. Even though he won't be playing his senior season at Calvary Christian Academy, his teammates and coaches are proud of the move Gushue is making.

"They were happy to see me moving on, but for me it is bittersweet," Gushue said. "I've spent four years in the program. I've been close to everybody. It's hard to go, but there's that joy of starting over and being the freshman and having to work your butt off again."

Gushue will move into the dorms on the University of Florida campus January 5 and have a few days to adjust before classes start January 9. There will be plenty for him to learn, both on the diamond and in the class room.

The freshmen on the team have the benefit of going through fall practices to become adjusted to the way the program works. They learned the signs and protocol for how O'Sullivan runs the program during the fall, so that when the spring starts, practices can start smooth.

Gushue doesn't have that advantage.

As a catcher, there is a lot to learn. He has to understand the strengths and weaknesses of every pitcher on the pitching staff, and while trying to learn the ins and outs of the Florida program at the same time, it could be a lot to handle. It's a trial he's ready to face.

"I think it's going to be a challenge, but I'll accept that challenge every day of the week," Gushue said. "I'm going to put in the time. I wouldn't doubt that it'll be a cram session, but I know I'll get the hang of it."

When Gushue made the decision to enroll early, O'Sullivan set him the sign sets to give him a head start on things to learn. Gushue said he knows it's only the ‘tip of the iceberg' of things he will have to learn in a short period of time.

He has the benefit of learning behind All-American catcher Mike Zunino. Gushue said that learning under Zunino played a small part in his decision to enroll early. Zunino is expected to be a first round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft and would likely sign professionally after this season.

In the end, it was the way O'Sullivan runs the program that sold Gushue on attending Florida.

"I think that the University of Florida is the best baseball program in the country," Gushue said. "Coach O'Sullivan puts his players in positions to succeed. I'm going to work hard and learn from the guys that are already up there, especially Mike Zunino, about the catching position."

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