“My summer coach made me make a video my junior year of high school and we sent it to a bunch of schools and one of the schools was NC State,” Turner recalled. “They watched me play and a tournament in Georgia. I think it was the first time the saw me play and shortly after that they offered me a scholarship.”
It has been a successful and interesting ride for Turner. Close calls marked the end of each of his three seasons at NC State, especially his final two.
His long flyout against UCLA at the 2013 College World Series and his hotly-disputed caught stealing the following year against North Carolina at the ACC Baseball Championship were the seminal moments as the Wolfpack came up just short of a berth in the Best-of-3 Championship Series in Omaha and were then denied a potential appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season.
Many in Wolfpack Nation still lament the dimensions of the ballpark in Omaha and feel that if the games were played anywhere else, NC State would have won the national championship two years ago.
“It is hard to say obviously but it is not crazy to think that,” Turner said of the 2013 squad. “We had a lot of momentum. We beat UNC, the one-seed, and we would have beat UCLA. Obviously looking back they won the national championship so if we could have knocked them out, who knows? We could have went all the way. It would have been fun to see."
Turner excelled throughout his college career, which led to him being selected No. 13 overall in the 2014 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres. It did not take Turner long to get accustomed to the rigors of professional baseball, but he just as quickly had to deal with the business side of the game he loved--and in a way that was almost unprecedented.
In mid-December Turner was involved in a three-way deal between San Diego, Tampa Bay and Washington that sent Wil Myers to San Diego--with the NC State all-time leader in stolen bases to ultimately be dealt to the Nationals. Due to a rule that stipulates draft picks must remain with their original club for a year prior to being traded, Turner has remained with the Padre organization despite it being common knowledge that he would be the player to named later.
Several reports have Turner moving to the Nationals on Sunday, June 14th.
“It is not that I don’t deal with it because obviously I deal with it all the time,” Turner said of the imminent trade. “I don’t have to deal with it if I don’t think about it. I just go out there and I play--which is something I have done my whole entire life--and I enjoy going out there and hitting batting practice, going out and fielding ground balls and just being around the guys. I have got a lot of friends here and I am pretty close to all the coaches, so it is something I don’t think about. It is probably coming to an end shortly but that is nothing I can control.
“When it happens, it happens. Until then, we’ll see.”
With his time in the San Diego being limited, Turner has not let the impending move affect his play on the diamond. With June 14th being widely reported as his final day in the Padres system, he is batting .323 with five home runs and 34 RBIs for the San Antonio Missions--San Diego’s Double-A affiliate entering Saturday’s action. Turner is third in the Texas League in batting average, third in RBIs and his 72 hits are the second-most in the league.
Turner gives credit to the San Diego instructional system and his coaches in San Antonio in particular. He has been comfortable in his time with the Padres and is grateful for the past year.
“In pro ball it is like it is a job,” Turner said. “Coaches are here because they want to be here. They want to coach. They want to help people and everyday--whatever you need--ground balls, in the cage, extra swings or out on the field, they’ll do anything you need or want and work with you all day until you feel like you have kind of accomplished something.”
“I was out here earlier today and my coach was throwing me BP,” Turner added. “I took an early batting practice and it is awesome being a part of that and being able to kind of work with the coaching staff. I really enjoy it and I am glad I have gotten that opportunity.”
With the pending deal looming, Turner sees the business side of baseball but has not let that detract from the joy he feels playing the game. For him, there is little difference from high school to college to professional ball in that regard.
“I still feel the same way,” Turner said. “I love it. I like competing. I like winning. It is definitely different. Games are a little different in that you play every single day. Obviously, you play against better competition. I still enjoy it. Everyday that I get out here it is fun and I try to make the most of it."
Despite all the distractions and the rigors of the Minor Leagues, Turner does allow himself to dream of reaching the Majors and feels NC State played a part in helping him prepare for life in professional ball.
“Whenever I watch TV, it’ll be mostly ESPN or MLB Network,” Turner said. “Obviously, it is all highlights of Major League Baseball. It is hard not to think about it. Obviously, when I am out here and I am competing I know what I have got to do here but it is a dream--it is everyone’s dream here--it is hard not to think about.”
“I don’t think I’d have been ready at all,” Turner said of a potential move to the professional ranks directly out of high school. “That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to go to college no matter how much I was offered. I felt I needed to grow up and mature a little bit and I think college and NC State helped me be able to do that.”
Turner has a particularly high regard for NC State head coach Elliott Avent.
“Obviously, I only have one father but he was a father-figure at NC State,” Turner said. “He really looks out after all of his players and really stands up for them. He has their back. You can ask him to do almost anything and he will do it for you. He runs all over the place doing a lot of things for a lot of people. I have a lot of respect for him after getting to know him for three years. I really like the guy, and I enjoy being around him.”
Despite being a professional player, Turner still remains close to the NC State team--often referring to the Wolfpack as ‘us’ or ‘we.’ He feels his school has a top-tier program with some room to grow and keeps tabs on the Pack often.
“I still follow the account on Twitter--that’s how I get most of my updates--and I still keep in touch with Preston Palmeiro and some of the other guys on the team,” Turner said. “I followed them all through the tournament.”
“I know for the most part since Elliott has been there they have been good and going to a lot of Regionals but the last few years they have taken another step. This year we were just a few outs away from going to another Super Regional. I think we have taken a step but we still have to do a little bit more. There are a lot of colleges that go to the College World Series all the time. That’s what they want to be and that’s what I would like them to be, so we have got a little work to do but the last few years have been a lot better.”
The journey began in Lake Worth, Florida. Three years in Raleigh, with a stop along the way in Omaha, then followed. After the joy of being drafted by San Diego, the business side of the game appeared and he was traded--but not yet traded--to Washington. The end result, whether with the Nationals or not, is likely to be the Major Leagues.
Along the path his life in baseball has taken, Turner has picked up many friends and supporters--not the least of which is the love he still receives from Wolfpack Nation. The Wolfpacker knows that wherever his travels take him, he can count NC State fans to always have his back. For that, he is grateful and hopes he can reciprocate in some small way.
“It means a lot," Turner said. “Anytime I can make someone’s day better or help somebody out, it means a lot. Bringing joy to someone else--whatever it is--by giving them a batting glove or bat or something like that and representing NC State the right way and giving someone else joy is something that I like to do.”
“It means a lot that those people still follow me and obviously care,” he added. “They are diehard fans for NC State so I appreciate all of the support that they give me, Carlos [Rodon], Brett [Austin], all the guys that got drafted last year and all the former players, it means a lot to us.”