Baseball, WVU Sports

J.J. Wetherholt named Big 12 Player of the Year, Randy Mazey earns Coach of the Year

MORGANTOWN — For much of his life, J.J. Wetherholt went by the nickname of John-John, which is what his grandmother called him.

His real name is John. His middle name is David.

“Yeah, people think my initials are a combination of my first and middle name, but it’s not,” Wetherholt said. “When I started Pee Wee football, my coach asked me my name and I said, ‘John-John.’ He started calling me J.J., and it’s stuck ever since.”

As of Tuesday, West Virginia’s star second baseman can also be referred to as Big 12 Player of the Year.

The sophomore led the conference in batting (.447), hits (92), OPS (1.296), runs (65), stolen bases (35) and slugging percentage (.786) to become the Mountaineers’ first-ever Big 12 Player of the Year.

Along the way, Wetherholt guided WVU (39-16) to a share of its first-ever Big 12 regular season championship, and he’s also been named one of the 60 finalists for the Dick Howser Trophy, college baseball’s version of the Heisman Trophy.

“Players like J.J. don’t come around all that often,” WVU manager Randy Mazey said. “I’ve coached 35 years, and you know when you have good players, but J.J. is a different cat. He does it all really well and is a tremendous kid with a tremendous personality. He’s very intelligent with a great work ethic.”

Wetherholt has one year remaining before he is eligible for the MLB Draft, but Mazey believes his second baseman is headed for a career in the pros one day.

“You just know he’s got a real career in this game,” Mazey said. “I hope to be one of the first ones sitting in the stadium when he plays his first big league game.”

Mazey, too, collected some major hardware, earning his second Big 12 Coach of the Year, following up on the same honor he won in 2019. Winning the honor — on his birthday — is worth a $25,000 bonus, according to Mazey’s contract.

Besides sharing the regular-season title — WVU was picked sixth in the preseason — the Mountaineers are just one win shy of the program’s second 40-win season.

WVU plays Texas Tech at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in the first round of the Big 12 tournament.

WVU pitchers Ben Hampton and Carlson Reed were named to the all-Big 12 first team, along with Wetherholt, and pitcher Blaine Traxel and outfielders Landon Wallace and Braden Barry earned second-team honors.

Wetherholt is WVU’s first Big 12 Player of the Year outside of women’s soccer. He also led the Mountaineers with 15 home runs and 56 RBIs and 21 doubles.

All from a guy who wasn’t mentioned on the all-Big 12 preseason team back in February.

The reason for that, while Wetherholt was productive as a freshman with a .308 average, five home runs and 39 RBIs, it all came while playing on an injured knee. Wetherholt, himself, said his freshman season was nothing outstanding.

After minor surgery last summer, Wetherholt came out exceeding everyone’s expectations.

He began the season with a 13-game hitting streak. The day after that ended, he collected five hits and drove in six runs against Appalachian State.

He’ll begin the Big 12 tournament with 30 multi-hit games.

“I’ve never seen a season like he’s had before,” Mazey said. “The way he’s gone through it and handled it has been something special.

“Everybody started talking about him and he knew he was in the race for the batting title in the nation. To perform in spite of all of that surrounding him is what separates the great players.”

TWEET @bigjax3211