Everyone knows that playing baseball year round in sunny states like California and Florida always produces the best talent. Right?

Well in Western Pennsylvania, we haven’t quite got the message.

Growing up in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, we started every season wondering if it would be warm enough for practice or if the snow had cleared off the field yet.

Unlike players that compete in the sunshine states, we spend many days hitting in cages indoors or working off artificial mounds.

To many, this sounds like a disadvantage because we lose time on the field. But having a background of knowing that some days you may have to play in poor weather conditions allows you to be ready for almost anything that can come your way.

But even though we saw the experience as an advantage, some of the college scouts were still wary of visiting the colder climate.

In order to get some exposure, I found myself driving to the midwest for tournaments and showcases. After my first few years of high school, I began to see my work pay off.

I was having success against great competition from around the region and I loved the challenges it presented.

During my junior season, I received more attention, which left me unsure of where I wanted to end up. Going into that summer, I had narrowed it down to 4 schools in Louisville, Wake Forest, Cincinnati, and West Virginia, but I wasn’t any closer to making a decision.

But right as I was heading into my senior year, I had one last visit with Coach McDonnell at Louisville. With the same attitude that makes him famous with his players, he told me that they were really invested in me, but I needed to give them an answer as others were there to take my offer if I wasn’t fully committed.

The heat coach put on me was just what I needed. And I think he knew.

Choosing to attend Louisville was much more than a result of that meeting. As a program, they stood out to me in my mind because of their back to back College World Series trips in 2013 and 2014, where they battled the top teams in the country. The aspect of us joining the ACC also solidified the idea that we would continue to play the top teams, which would allow me to continue to challenge myself.

Photos Courtesy of Louisville Athletics
Courtesy of Louisville Athletics

And then there is the baseball culture here. When I first got here, I was amazed by the passion and dedication of the fans, as I had never seen anything like it. Packing thousands of fans into Jim Patterson Stadium, our home games provide an electric environment that is difficult to describe.

Even with how much I loved the program, it was still a difficult decision that I was glad I had my parents on my side for. Neither of them went to college, so they were persistent that I chose a quality program in both academics and athletics. But when it really came down to it, they told me that it was my career and my life, so I should choose with my heart and mind.

I am thankful for that advice, as it was with that idea that gave me the confidence to choose the University of Louisville.

After that decision, I thought everything would be downhill since it would be just baseball.

But in my freshman year, I found out that success wouldn’t come as easy as it had before. Especially for a player that both pitches and hits, the game is at a much faster pace. Balancing between my two positions, I found myself stretching for time in a way that I never had before.

Now after a few years, I have finally found the right schedule. Balancing between treatment with our trainers, my pitching routine, and working on my swing, the only thing I have to worry about is the jokes I get from my teammates on switching around so much during my days.

Courtesy of Louisville Athletics
Courtesy of Louisville Athletics

As young players, our lives often feel like we never have a free moment, but just make sure you are having fun and don’t get frustrated. I hope that using this mentality, more players will choose to continue their career in both hitting and pitching, as once you find the balance, the payoff is well worth it.

For me, I’m hoping that payoff comes with achieving our ultimate goal.

Even as the jokes may continue to come from teammates on where I’ve been all day, we know that we all just want one thing: a trip back to the College World Series for a chance at the National Championship.

Brendan McKay | Contributor