PUEBLO, Colo. – J.B. Mauney was 12 years old when he was rounding third base and barreling toward home plate during a local youth baseball game in North Carolina with the same intensity you find from Mauney trying to grit his way to 8 seconds on the Built Ford Tough Series.
His teammate had ripped a line drive into the outfield and the opposing team had fired the ball to their cutoff man.
Seconds later, Mauney was grasping at his hip at home plate.
“As soon as I stepped on home plate, he smoked me in the pelvis bone and fractured it,” Mauney recalled with a laugh in the locker room last weekend in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
In fact, it was the first time Mauney ever sustained a hip injury in his life and one of the first injuries he ever went through.
“That was probably the first one,” he said. “That was the joke. I got hurt more playing baseball than I did riding my steers and stuff. When I got to home plate, for some reason, the ball liked to hit me. I either got on base or the ball would hit me. I got drilled I don’t know how many times. I think I cracked my collarbone one time too. My hand eye coordination wasn’t so fast. It would be coming right at me and about the time I realized it was going to hit me it was too late.”
It may not have been a bull riding arena, but Mauney was just as tough on the baseball field recalled his dad, Tim.
“J.B. has always, since he has been little, been pretty tough there,” Tim Mauney said. “He played baseball when he was smaller and he got hurt more playing baseball than he did riding roughstock.”
Mauney credits his parents, Tim and Lynne, for being hard on him as a kid and teaching him toughness.
It was a characteristic Tim Mauney wanted his son to have.
“Mine and his motto is, ‘If you play the game, you take the pain,’” Tim Mauney said. “He has always lived by that. I can see the older he gets it takes a little longer to heal, but he still lives by that.’”
J.B. Mauney has often been compared to his late grandfather P.D. “Catfish” McAllister – a former baseball player known for his no-quit attitude.
J.B. Mauney enjoyed playing second base or shortstop as kid, but he also was able to pitch. He likely could have played ball in high school, but he was too focused on bull riding.
“I used to play for the county and games were on the weekdays,” J.B. Mauney said. “As soon as I got to high school, the games started on the weekends. I couldn’t let that interfere with the rodeos and bull ridings. Coaches kept getting pissed off I would show up beat up from going to ride bulls. They said, ‘You either pick baseball or bull riding,’ and I said, ‘I will see ya’ll later!’”
It wasn’t the first time someone tried to convince J.B. Mauney to walk away from bull riding.
Mauney’s parents offered to buy their son a dirt bike when he was a kid if he would quit bull riding.
“We got the dirt bike and a week later I went to one rodeo, and I wasn’t entered in the bull riding, and I said, ‘You could sell that damn dirt bike,’ J.B. Mauney recalled.
Obviously, his decision to stick with bull riding paid off.
He went on to win the 2006 PBR Rookie of the Year at 19 years old, and seven years later he won the 2013 World Championship.
He is now in the hunt for his second career world title and if he hangs on to win, he would become the first PBR rider to win more than $6 million in career earnings.
Another World Championship would also make Mauney the fifth rider in history to win multiple PBR world titles.
The 28-year-old leads No. 2 Joao Ricardo Vieira by 817.5 points in the world standings heading into this weekend’s Cooper Tires Take The Money and Ride Built Ford Tough Series regular-season finale.
He takes on Big Naughty (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1 and HD (4-5, BFTS) in Round 2.
Mauney certainly isn’t 100 percent healthy, nor are most of the riders on the tour at this time of the year.
Just as he would step back into the batter’s box and dig his cleats into the ground, Mauney has continued to climb into the bucking chutes regardless of injuries this year.
Mauney has been able to fight through injuries to his left ankle and knee and continue his torrid pace with a 70 percent riding average (14-for-20) since Aug. 1.
In comparison, three of the other world title contenders – Vieira (riding wrist), Matt Triplett (left knee) and Fabiano Vieira (left knee, thigh) – have struggled to compete with their respective injuries.
“The main thing for any of these guys is staying healthy, that is the biggest deal,” Tim Mauney said. “It don’t take just one time to put you out of the running. I hope no one gets hurt and everybody keeps on going there.”
While J.B. Mauney’s march to the No. 1 ranking has been a major PBR storyline, it is easy to forget he tore his left ACL back in March and missed five events.
While that injury sidelines many professional athletes and affects other bull rider’s performances, Mauney has been able to bear down and ride even better than he was prior to the injuries.
“When you are in the zone, it don’t matter how bad you are hurting,” Mauney said. “You keep going because that zone can end quickly.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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