Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Immense change has encompassed West Virginia baseball over the past few years. The team has moved to a new conference, hired a new coaching staff and increased its travel regimen. Even the future will be filled with more differences, as the club is slated to move to a brand new ballpark in the not so distant future.
Mountaineer senior first baseman Ryan McBroom has had a front seat to the transition.
“I began my college career in another conference with a different coaching staff,” said McBroom. “Then halfway through everything switched”.
The transition between sophomore and junior year for student-athletes is a significant one. School work becomes more significant, leadership roles are taken on and there is an expectation of maturity on and off the field. McBroom engaged in all of this while adapting to a new coaching system.
“After my sophomore year West Virginia switched conferences and Coach (Randy) Mazey was brought in,” explained McBroom. “Coming from a big baseball school, the new coaching staff understood what was needed to win”.
Ironically, one of the only unaltered components of the program was McBroom himself. The senior has missed just 10 career games coming into 2014. In the past two years he has appeared in every single contest the Mountaineers have played, and Mazey knows the importance of his presence in the lineup.
“His (McBroom) hitting style changes the way pitchers throw the ball,” said Mazey. “Even when he is not hitting well, he is a valued asset. Teams change their approach because of him.”
Rarely are student-athletes able to make it through two seasons without significant injury. McBroom attributed his health to a combination of training and good fortune.
“With practice and games almost every day, it takes a toll on the body,” articulated McBroom. “I thrive on being able to get into the weight room and eat right.”
Proper training and conditioning is a passion for the Fredericksburg, Va., native. That explains why he is a sport and exercise psychology major in school and a member of the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
“I am really into exercise and weight lifting,” said McBroom. “My degree also allows me to branch into other areas of sports as well, whether it be counseling or teaching.”
With so much time spent in the weight room, it comes as no surprise that McBroom has an innate ability to hit the long ball. The first basemen led the Big 12 with 12 home runs last season and was third in RBIs. He has led the Mountaineers in back-to-back seasons in round trippers and runs batted in. This year is no different, as he is once again at the top of the charts.
Fellow senior pitcher Ryan Tezak sees McBroom’s power as an element of support.
“It is always easier to pitch knowing that someone like Ryan is in your lineup,” explained Tezak. “As long as the game is in one swing distance, you know he has the power to make a quick difference.”
Hitting for power is not just a testament to McBroom’s time in the weight room, it also involves lots of batting practice and live pitches.
“As a team we are constantly hitting”, spoke McBroom. “Credit has to be given to our coaches who have us working on pitches that we might see in games.”
The power hitting mentality has not always been a part of McBroom’s repertoire. Being the clean-up hitter was something he had to learn.
“Batting in the middle of the lineup, I see a lot of off-speed and breaking ball pitches,” explained McBroom. “Understanding how to hit in those situations was key in finding my success.”
In 2014, he has found a way to hit for power and average.
“He has really matured this year as a complete hitter,” spoke Tezak. “He has found a way to bat for distance and average, which makes him that much more difficult to pitch to.”
With such power and durability, McBroom has attracted the attention of major league scouts. This past offseason he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 36th round of the Major League Baseball Draft. Despite the offer, he opted to stay in school, knowing the value of his degree. Having him back was a boost for teammates.
“He and I share the same leadership style in the fact that we are not vocal,” said Tezak. “It is about leading by example, and McBroom does that every day.”
Coach Mazey believes he sets an example on and off the diamond.
“He is a great leader and there are nothing but positives that surround him,” explained Mazey. “As far as a student-athlete goes, he is off the charts.”
McBroom is one of four seniors who have been on West Virginia’s roster for four years. Helping to lead the team is a responsibility he does not take lightly.
“I want to show the younger guys how to play the game the right way,” said McBroom. “That is what will help current members of the club, and those who come in the future.”
If the MLB calls again this summer, school will not factor into McBroom’s decision, as he will graduate this May. Although he usually does not look ahead, the senior admits to thinking about his time ending as a Mountaineer.
“My years in Morgantown and playing at Hawley Field are coming to an end,” spoke McBroom. “It has been a long haul, but a good one at that.”
Graduation will bring myriad changes. Having said that, the Mountaineer’s first basemen should not have an issue adjusting. For Ryan McBroom, transition is the norm.