Josh Bell, the Jesuit College Preparatory School alum who plays first base for the Pittsburgh Pirates professional baseball team, is surprised to hear that Jesuit has bought hundreds of seats in his honor when he plays the Texas Rangers Tuesday and Wednesday at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Bell says he’ll know you really know him if you call “J.B.”
Drafted in the second round of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft, Bell received a $5 million signing bonus, turning down a college baseball scholarship at the University of Texas at Austin. It was a difficult decision, he says, but his dad was a guiding force.
What was it like growing up in the Dallas area?
It was an awesome place to grow up. I grew up in the Coppell area, so I had to commute. I ended up going to St. Rita’s from fifth grade on and then Jesuit following that, so I spent a lot of time on Highway 635, but it was worthwhile. It laid that foundation for the type of person I am today
What are your memories of Jesuit?
I can’t forget senior retreat. The teachers did a really good job of arranging people who never took classes together or played sports. I became close friends with a guy named Edward Cohen. I attended St Rita’s with him, but I never really spent time away with him. That’s a friendship that I hold dear to my heart. It was an awesome three or four days, kind of unplug from society and dive into spirituality. It laid the groundwork for the rest of my life.
How old were you when you first started playing baseball?
I started at 4. I started playing local T-ball, blocks away from my house. It’s cool that I can drive past that same complex and reminisce about the good times that I had with my Dad and some teammates there. I played for the Pirates for T-ball. In high school, I played for the Dallas Patriots.
When you were at Jesuit, where did you and friends hang out?
There was the Sonic. Pre-game, we had some family that would always go over to someone’s house.
How often do you come back to the Dallas area?
This off-season is the first one where I didn’t come back to Dallas to stay.
Do your parents still live here?
Yes, they still live in Valley Ranch.
I saw in an interview that you said “Pops” watches every game. Is that your dad?
What does he think of your success?
He’s excited. I’m playing well right now. He helped me perform at this level at an early age. My dad was always challenging in the back yard. He had this pitching machine, and whenever I started hitting it well, he’d move closer, so it was that much harder. My parents watch every game. I’ve got family members that listen in. I can only imagine what it’s like for him, but I see guys with kids in the clubhouse now, and it’s kind of dawning on me how cool it would be to have a kid in the big leagues.
Do you have a pre-game ritual?
I always pray during the National Anthem. At Jesuit, there was a meditative stretch after lunch, when you could reflect on the day and on God’s love and ask for guidance. I use the National Anthem as that time. I give it all to Him and ask for His favor. I ask to play without fear or anxiety.
How do you deal with stress?
I call my dad after the game or the following morning. My dad is super spiritual and uplifting, so whatever’s on my heart, he steers me in the right direction and keep me believing in myself.
What’s the biggest thing you learned in 2018 about yourself?
Failure is a great teacher. You can work your tail off and not see results. I had to look myself in the mirror and realize that this jersey might get taken off my back if I don’t lock in and perform the way that I need to. Some people might look at that as a terrible, scary truth, but it is what it is. For me, I try to use it as fuel and work my tail off in the off-season so I can prepare myself for the season.
What’s the most challenging thing you have overcome?
In baseball, it’s my injury. I got hurt my first year of pro ball, and I had rehab for a year. I played with pain. That was the first time that I had to play every day through pain. It was humbling. I have a respect for anybody who can play this game for a number of years, because it is such wear and tear on the body. That same year, my grandmother passed, so that was just a dark place that I had to get through. Thank goodness for family and for loved ones that helped me make it through
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Have healthy sleep habits. Eat slow, stretch, drink a lot of water. Try to learn something new.
Do you have a nickname?
I go by J.B. If anybody calls me J.B. at a stadium, I have to look because I feel like they know me.
Do you have a walk-up song?
It’s “It Feels Like Summer.” It’s the instrumental version without the curse words. In Pittsburgh, we play in 40-degree weather for the first month. That song makes me feel like summer.
— Interview by Lisa Kresl
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