Catching up with Kobie Cushing
Published 12:22 am Tuesday, July 5, 2022
Former Titan grateful for a change of scenery and the chance to pitch for the Disco Turkeys
By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier
Kobie Cushing has gone from West Forsyth to the birds.
Cushing, a pitcher who transferred from West Forsyth High School in Georgia after his freshman year and graduated from West Forsyth in Clemmons in 2021, is currently playing for the Carolina Disco Turkeys, a college wooden-bat team based in Winston-Salem that plays in the All-America Amateur Baseball Association from late May-late July.
But getting to play this summer has taken some turns along the way. He signed to play at Queens University in Charlotte and played there this past spring. However, he has since transferred to Catawba Valley Community College, a junior college in Hickory.
“I thought it was going to be cool to be able to stay at home and get to play summer ball,” Cushing said.
More than halfway through the season, Cushing has enjoyed the experience of playing in a summer league.
“It’s been really good. I’ve been feeling good,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun, too. The games are competitive, but still enough fun to keep it interesting. So, it’s a good mix.”
The opportunity to play with the Disco Turkeys came about because he knows the pitching coach.
The pitching coach is Dr. A.J. Lewis, whose son, Zach, played and graduated from West Forsyth, and his other son, Harrison, is a rising senior for the Titans who has committed to North Carolina. Zach originally signed to play for Wake Forest, but has since transferred to Appalachian State.
Lewis is a doctor with Novant Health Valaoras & Lewis OB/GYN, and although his time is limited, he has learned the science of pitching.
“It was about two years ago I started an offseason pitching program for other pitchers and Kobie really blossomed,” Lewis said. “He went from a guy that was close to the end of the bench, and rarely got to see the field, that I kind of put a spark in him and some belief in him that he could do it. And all of the sudden he was the dude as a senior.”
Lewis included Cushing on his wish list to pitch for the Disco Turkeys.
“When we were looking for pitchers this year, I was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got a hometown guy that I know well, has a good family, good player. Let me know when I need to reach out.’” Lewis said. “And so, I called him at Queens and that’s what he’s doing this summer.”
Relationships matter, and that’s no different between a pitcher and a pitching coach.
“A.J.’s done a lot. He’s gone down to the Baseball Ranch, he’s done a lot of stuff with Driveline,” said Brad Bullard, the baseball coach at West Forsyth. “In 2022, that’s the direction pitching has gone with all the analytics. And A.J.’s, needless to say, has done his homework.”
After having limited playing time for Queens this past season, a little extra seasoning will help as Cushing prepares to go to CVCC.
“This day and age with the transfer portal, kids want the opportunity to play,” Bullard said. “And I get that. I talk to some of my high school guys about that.”
One of Cushing’s teammates with the Disco Turkeys is former West Forsyth player Banks Cox, who is about to start his second year with UNC Greensboro.
Cox missed his entire first season after having elbow ulnar-nerve transition in March on his elbow.
“The first day I got there, the owner (Greg Sullivan) was telling me (Cushing) was on the team, and I got pretty excited,” Cox said. “Kobie’s always been one of those guys — he’s a great hard worker, so I actually talked to him the whole game (last week)…It was nice to have him around again.”
Cushing said he decided early during the spring season at Queens that he was going to transfer.
“JUCO is, you’re there to develop and get better and go to a different program. I liked Queens, but (it) just didn’t feel like the right fit for me. It didn’t quite feel like home,” Cushing said. “So, I’m going to take a year of junior college and then see what happens from there.”
Cushing appeared in three games for Queens this spring, starting one. He finished with five strikeouts and four walks and had a 3.86 ERA.
“We have a lot of guys in the transfer portal, so a lot of guys are going for exposure,” Cushing said. “A lot of innings against good competition. So, that was the thing for me, being a freshman, I didn’t get a whole lot of run at Queens. So, I just kept my innings up this summer.”
Knowing him so well, Cox has seen more joy from Cushing this summer.
“I think Kobie’s a special talent,” Cox said. “He’s going to love JUCO and he’ll end up somewhere, I think, really big.
“I think this is something that he’s going to look back and be grateful that he did. He’s got a special arm, and he’s also a special kid. He works, he’s humble, and I think when he goes JUCO those big schools are going to see that. And he’ll have a fresh start somewhere.”
Going into Queens, Kushing understood that playing time would be limited as a freshman.
“I understood it the whole time. With COVID and everything there were so many guys on the team that were (in their) fifth years,” Cushing said. “And they just had a lot more experience than I had. So, I get that. You want to play as much as you can and compete, but you have to do what’s best for the team.”
And he’s done just that for the Disco Turkeys.
“I just heard that he wasn’t seeing the field much, and hearing that he wasn’t happy,” Lewis said. “And so that was a good opening salvo to say, ‘Hey, what are you doing this summer? I can give you anything. You can live at home.’”
More than halfway through the season things are progressing quite well for Cushing.
“The first couple of outings he was just kind of knocking the rust off,” Lewis said. “…But he has really developed a lot. His velocity has climbed since those first couple of outings. He’s kind of gotten his old form back, and to be honest, getting his swagger back.”
Getting this experience this summer with top-level players should help.
“If you just look at how much he’s improved within a year of his junior to senior year of high school, and you couple that with his work ethic,” Bullard said. “He’s already throwing over 90 (mph). Not everybody can pick up a baseball and throw it 90 miles an hour.
“He’s definitely got the physical traits behind him, and him going to junior college, he’ll get more innings and hopefully be able to craft his trade more and continue to develop and get better.”
Admitting that Cushing was homesick at Queens, the Disco Turkeys play the majority of their home games at Truist Stadium, where the Winston-Salem Dash plays, Truist Point, where the High Point Rockers play, and Forbush High School. Getting to the road games is a different story.
“We drive ourselves. A lot of guys carpool, so we’ve worked out some carpool systems to get from game-to-game,” Cushing said. “I think bus rides are a lot of fun, so I have to say I’d rather be on the bus.”
The regular season is scheduled to conclude July 29 with a home game against the Charlotte Blaze, followed by the AAABA National Tournament Aug. 1-6 in Johnstown, Pa.
“If I continue to develop and pitch like I know I can, I believe I can, I think I’ve got an OK chance of getting drafted,” Cushing said. “I want to play baseball as long as I can, so however I can do that I want to try to do that.”