McElroy signs with Henderson State
Marion High School’s starting catcher signed a national letter of intent last week
Marion senior Peyton McElroy still has one season to play with the Patriots. But, no matter how his last season in a Patriots uniform turns out, it will not be his last time on a ball field as the Marion catcher signed his national letter of intent this past Friday to continue his baseball career at Henderson State next season.
“It’s a nice feeling,” McElroy said. “I’ve worked hard for it over these last four or five years and it’s finally paid off. It’s a good feeling.”
Specifically, McElroy has spent a lot of time working on his defensive abilities behind the plate.
“Over the past three or four years I’ve really been working on my defense because in baseball you’re strongest up the middle,” McElroy said. “So, I’ve tried to work on my defense, being a good catch-and-throw guy, blocking balls and saving runs. So, that’s one thing that I’ve really worked on and that I’ve noticed I’ve gotten better at.”
McElroy’s summer ball coach and head coach of the Marion Toppers Junior Weaver agrees, praising the Marion catcher’s ability to call a game.
“He handles pitchers well,” Weaver said. “He can run a defense. He knows where the defenders are supposed to be. He’s a little coach on the field and I’m proud of him.”
The future Henderson State Reddie catcher began learning how to lead a team years ago, showing leadership and work ethic as a 14year old on a Toppers team full of young adults, according to Weaver.
“He joined me as a little 14-year old,” Weaver said. “We had a roster full of 17, 18 and 19-year olds. And, he jumped in there catching bullpen sessions, going through practice, going through the drills and doing everything we were doing. He’s just a real gutty, gritty type kid and he doesn’t back down.”
Catching can be a particularly tough position, being involved on every defensive play. Squatting behind the plate, taking foul tips off of the body and diving on the ground to block wild pitches can take it’s toll on a body. But, that’s what McElroy loves about it.
“You don’t have any down time,” McElroy said. “It teaches you to be a leader. You’ve got to go out there and run different types of defenses, communicate with the infield and you see everything. So, you’re a part of the game the entire time. There’s not a gap where you don’t get a ball hit to you at all.”
It’s a challenge McElroy has embraced for seasons now, never missing a practice or a game according to Weaver. And, the head coach says that’s an important quality to have for the leader of a college baseball team.
“He’s tough and he’ll hang in there with a play at the plate,” Weaver said. “He has a feel for the game. He really does. You know, a catcher is a quarterback. A catcher is a point guard. They have the whole game in front of them. That’s why you see in the big leagues this year I think there were nine former catcher who were managers because you see the whole game in front of you.”
With his knowledge of baseball, work ethic in the classroom and on the diamond and durability, Weaver has no doubt that McElroy will transition into college baseball seamlessly, like he did adapting to competitive baseball as a 14-year-old several years ago.
“He’ll start etching a spot for himself in the program because on that depth chart it can change daily at the college level,” Weaver said. McElroy chose Henderson State because he says his future teammates and coaches made him feel at home and also because the Reddies offer a very specific major which the Marion backstop hopes to soar towards.
“I’m doing commercial aviation,” McElroy said. “So that’s what they had there for me unlike a lot of other schools… You get to rent planes and take them out on trips whenever you want to. So, that’s one thing that I’m really looking forward to.” McElroy gives special thanks to his parents, Coach Weaver and his teammates for helping him reach this point in his playing career and life.
“I’d like to thank my parents and my summer ball coach, Coach Weaver,” McElroy said. “He’s helped me a lot. My teammates, they’ve helped me develop and find things that I don’t notice in my game. They’ve really helped me get where I am now.”
But, before he goes off to college, McElroy will join his teammates at Marion High School and with the Marion Toppers for one last season, a season that the Marion senior says has the potential to be very special. “We’ve had a coaching chance, so I’m hoping that we can get in there, have new life and get things done,” McElroy said. “We’ve actually got the talent to be really good if we just get our head in the right place. So, if we just stay focused and go out there and grind then we can win a lot of ball games.”
By Collins Peeples