Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Pirates.

Jesuit College Preparatory School bought hundreds of seats to a Texas Rangers homestand against the Pittsburgh Pirates this spring in honor of one of its alumni. 

Josh Bell plays first base for the Pirates. He graduated from Jesuit in 2011 and was selected in the second round of the Major League Baseball Draft that year. He received a $5 million signing bonus, turning down a scholarship to 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 [Interstate] 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 started playing baseball?
I started at 4. I played 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 Dad and some teammates there. I played for the Pirates for T-ball. In high school, I played for the Dallas Patriots.

What does your dad 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 backyard. 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 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. He is spiritual and uplifting, so whatever’s on my heart, he steers me in the right direction and keeps me believing in myself.

Pittsburgh Pirates win over the St. Louis Cardinals 6-2

What did you learn about yourself in 2018?

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 perform the way that I need to. Some people might look at that as a terrible, scary truth, but 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 a dark place that I had to get through. Thank goodness for family and for loved ones that helped me make it through.

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.

What is your walk-up song at PNC Park?

It’s “Feels Like Summer” [by Childish Gambino]. 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.

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