Every year a number of the school’s athletes commit to play for various universities across the United States. Most recently, Baylor University recruited senior Steven McLean, who will be playing varsity baseball for his fourth year this year, for its powerhouse baseball program.
Steven, who has played varsity positions on football, basketball and baseball, has had a storied athletic career in both school and club sports over the course of his high school career. He has since settled down with baseball, and has been extremely successful.
“I’ve always known that baseball was my sport,” Steven said. “Football and basketball no doubt were awesome to play but by my junior year I realized that in order to give myself the best opportunity to go to college for baseball I had to focus on just it.”
Although some coaches want their athletes to focus solely on one sport, varsity baseball coach Sandy Wihtol encourages athletes to play multiple sports to an extent.
“Otherwise, they’ll get themselves burnt out,” Wihtol said. “It can really become a grind. Playing multiple sports like Steven did gives you a different sense of the games. But when you get a certain level, you can’t put yourself in harm’s way [in other sports] and you have to circle the wagons to get to the next level.”
Wihtol was initially very impressed by Steven, who was only a freshman when Wihtol first saw him play. Wihtol, who has been coaching at LAHS for sixteen seasons, played for nine years in the professional ranks, and spent portions of three seasons in the major leagues. As a result of his extensive experience in the sport, he has become an effective evaluator of talent.
“Steven was quick and agile…he has the perfect physique for baseball,” Wihtol said. “He had a much better than average arm, was a good hitter. And he had something I can’t coach: a passion for the game.”
Steven’s baseball career progressed meteorically and culminated with his recruitment to Baylor, a school with an elite Division I baseball program.
“They are top-10 NCAA, have a great staff,” Wihtol said. “They are real class acts and are the envy of a lot of other baseball programs.”
The greatest contribution towards Steven’s recruitment to Baylor was his performance in the prestigious East Cobb Tournament in Atlanta, Georgia. Most players that participate in the tournament go on to play college baseball. As expected, college scouts eagerly hunt for talent at events of this caliber. Steven took advantage of the opportunity and managed to impress scouts at the tournament.
“The East Cobb tournament in Georgia is the whole reason I am going to Baylor,” Steven said. “If I didn’t play in the tournament they would have never seen me play. Luckily Baylor was out there to watch me play and I played really well which resulted in a scholarship.”
However, before committing to Baylor, Steven underwent a rigorous, and at times discouraging, recruitment process.
“At the end of my junior year I sent out a video and all my information to 66 schools with a letter telling them I want to go to their school. I got many replies back, some with stronger interest than others,” Steven said.
However, Steven persevered through this adversity and impressed Baylor by his performance in Georgia.
“There were times when I just wanted to give up and didn’t think I’d be able to do it but I played well at the right time in front of the right people and it got me to where I am now,” Steven said.
Looking toward the future, Steven is extremely excited about his opportunity to play for Baylor, and hopes not only to contribute to their program, but also to continue his baseball career past college.
“My goal is to play as soon as I’m there but that’s not easy especially considering that they are fifth in the nation,” Steven said. “I am still developing as a player so I know I have the potential to be a big aspect of the Baylor roster.”
Ever ambitious and optimistic, Steven hopes to be playing shortstop as a freshman. He will hopefully be an exciting addition to Baylor’s dynamic baseball program.
“People love to come watch him play with the tools he has,” Withol said. “He is easily in the top percentile of players.”