I’ve always been a baseball kid.
As soon as the final school bell rang, I’d eagerly wait for my dad to get home from work so he could hit me some ground balls or play catch in our front yard.
My dad played baseball in college, and his passion for the sport helped me find mine, too.
Like any kid, I started off in little league and dreamed of playing in the big leagues one day. I always thought it was surreal that some people got to go play college baseball, and I looked up to those kids from my high school who were college commits.
I never thought that it would be me one day.
After all, those future plans always seemed so far away.
As I kept growing up, I started to realize it was something I really could do. With every travel ball team or age group I entered, college baseball drew closer and closer.
Now that I’m in the midst of it, it’s even better than I could have ever imagined.
It’s interesting for me to think that if not for a coaching change, I might have never ended up here at Oakland.
I owe it all to my head coach, Jordon Banfield, for believing in me. When coach Banfield was an assistant coach at Akron, he showed up in person to see me play in high school.
I had a crazy good game with about 10 putouts and a couple extra-base hits, so it might as well have been one of the best games of my life.
Good thing he was there to see it.
I was a junior in high school when I committed to Akron, and my heart felt full. I was just so happy and content that my dream was right there at my fingertips.
But, college athletics have a lot of moving parts.
It wasn’t long before coach Banfield called me up to let me know he’d taken the head coaching job at Oakland. It wasn’t that much further from my hometown, but I still had a decision to make – would I follow my coach to a new school and new environment?
I paused for a second and thought about it.
You betcha, I said.
It was definitely something I wanted to do.
I lived with four of my teammates, and the busy college experience with those guys made it a great start to my college baseball journey.
However, my first few games didn’t quite go as smoothly.
In my first 10 at-bats of college baseball, I had about eight strikeouts and only put one ball in play.
I won’t lie – my confidence definitely suffered right there at the start. All the guys on the team were telling me they had my back and that I’d break out of my slump.
First things first, I had to get that foundation and confidence back.
You know how they tell you to fake it until you make it?
Well, there’s some truth to that. I really had to convince myself I belonged at this level, and soon enough, I truly did.
I’m thankful for my coaches for continuing to give me opportunities, and of course, for all the support from my teammates.
Before the season started, we knew that we were a talented group that could accomplish a lot.
Those early-season games really put it to the test, though.
We took our lumps and learned from it, so much so that I’m proud of the team we became down the stretch.
There were games where we were down in the seventh, eighth, or ninth inning, and we all felt we could still make a comeback and win.
The best baseball programs have a culture of belief, and that’s something that coach Banfield has preached to us.
At the beginning of the season, he told us that it’s great to be the team that sets the foundation.
He told us that we were going to be the team that changed Oakland Baseball if we set our minds to it.
And I think we became that team.
In my eyes, there are two moments this season that helped define us as a team.
The first was in March when we took two of three games from Wright State on the road. That program has been the team to beat in the conference for years, and I don’t think they’d lost a home series since 2013 or something crazy like that.
When they came to our place later in the year, we won both those games as well.
Not only did we compete with the best in our conference, we beat them on multiple occasions, and that showed us all that a conference title could be possible.
Our other key moment was a 14-7 win over Michigan at the end of March.
That program is as good as it gets for college baseball in the upper Midwest, and we all came together as a team to beat them.
That gave us a lot of confidence in our bats, something that carried through the rest of the season.
And what a season it was.
Our 31 wins set a new program record, which felt great for me to be a part of in my first season of college baseball.
The only thing we didn’t manage to accomplish was winning a conference tournament. We did get to the finals, but Wright State got the best of us.
Next year, we’re coming even harder for the Horizon League title.
For me, this season proved that I belong at this level and on this team.
And for the Oakland baseball program, this year also showed that we can be a winning Division I program.
Hopefully, future Oakland teams can look back at this year and see where the winning tradition started.
Because now that we’ve got it going, it’s only going to get better and better from here.