What to know about Evan Russell, Tennessee baseball's star catcher

Nick Gray
Knoxville News Sentinel

Evan Russell has been a constant for Tennessee baseball since 2018.

The 5th-year senior from Lexington has played in 230 games as a Vol, a program record.

Here's what to know about the Vols' outfielder turned catcher.

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Earns a spot in the lineup as a freshman

Russell began his UT career as a freshman designated hitter for Tony Vitello's first Vols team. Russell's first two seasons included a lot of DHing and waiting in the dugout.

“It’s tough sitting in the dugout and waiting for the game to go through,” Russell told Knox News in 2018. “I eat seeds, chew gum and get a drink. That’s my routine.”

2021 may have been a breakout year, but 2022 was even better for Russell

Russell has nearly matched his 2021 home run total in 2022 without playing an NCAA Tournament (14 in 2021, 13 in 2022). But he's become a well-rounded hitter at the plate even with the defensive switch to catcher.

Russell's average climbed from .238 to .299. and he has struck out 25 fewer times in 22 fewer at-bats. Because of that, Russell's on-base percentage climbed to .401. That he still ranks 6th among Vols regulars in average and OBP is a credit to the strength of the Vols' 2022 lineup.

The creator of the Vols' home run celebration

Tennessee's home run celebratory props had included just a hat with the word "Daddy" across the front. But the Vols added a fur coat to the celebration, and it's been used a lot by the nation's top home-run hitting team this year.

According to his teammates, Russell is the source of the add-on.

“That is another Evan Russell creation," UT third baseman Trey Lipscomb said in February. "He has the cheetah print pimp coat. We like it. Just put it on your shoulders or whatever.”