Cory Van Dyke is a graduate of Manchester High School in Midlothian, VA. He worked for RVAGameBreak.com and the Village News covering local high school sports in the area. His work earned him the Rich Murray Journalism Scholarship which honors the top high school sports journalist in Virginia. A huge San Francisco Giants fan, Cory worked for their AA affiliate, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, this past summer as the primary datacaster. Cory is a freshman at Virginia Tech, majoring in multimedia journalism.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs once said, “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
Cape Henry junior Matt Ballance truly followed his heart and reached for his dreams when he announced his commitment to the Virginia Tech baseball program on August 25, 2015.
Blacksburg has largely been the second home for Ballance and his family. In fact, Ballance’s father, Jeff Ballance, was a Hokie quarterback from 1982-1986. This legacy has left an imprint on Matt and in turn shaped his future.
“Ever since I was probably four or five years old I’ve always gone to Virginia Tech football games and every time I go there it gets better and better,” said Ballance. “It’s just a great overall atmosphere to be there.
“Virginia Tech was my first offer last summer in June. A couple weeks later I picked up a Liberty offer, but once Tech offered I knew I was going to wait until the end of the summer to make my decision. As soon as they [Virginia Tech] offered, it was pretty clear where I wanted to be.”
As a sophomore at Cape Henry, Ballance earned Second Team All-Tidewater Conference honors despite missing eight games due to sickness, batting from the lead-off spot and racking up 16 RBIs. He played shortstop the majority of the time, but also spent some time in centerfield depending on who was pitching.
“Matt is a great kid, he’s a hard worker, and he’s very passionate about baseball,” said Cape Henry coach Tim Hummel, who played in the MLB for the Cincinnati Reds from 2003-2004. “With his father’s past and history as being a part of Virginia Tech, he’s super passionate about Virginia Tech and really excited about going there. He’s very excited to play collegiately. I know that’s a dream and a goal of his, and obviously now he’s achieved it. He’s going to keep working hard to get even better so he can contribute as much as he can when he gets there.”
Ballance’s ability to excel at a number of positions makes him an intriguing prospect. Combine that with exceptional speed and a tactical approach at the plate, and Ballance has all the makings to be an impact player on the Division I level.
“Even at the high school level you have so many players who have just been exposed to one position,” Hummel explained. “Just at Cape Henry, he’s exposed to the outfield and infield. He’s got the ability, speed, and agility to play defensively in centerfield, or shortstop or second base. He’s a disruptor on the base paths. He can steal a base at any time, but he’s also got some pop to drive the ball into the gaps.
“The tools are obvious. I think it’s obvious that he can hit. His approach at the plate, his ability to drive the ball the other way, and just all the intangibles you want from a hitter.”
Ballance is brought into the fold during an exciting time for Virginia Tech baseball following the announcement of multi-million dollar renovations to English Field and Rector Field House. Moreover, the intended renovations have already resulted in a major recruiting pitch as several athletes have committed since the announcement.
“The new stadium is a huge upgrade,” Ballance said. “Especially playing in the ACC, you’re going to go travel to some great facilities down there, and Tech now has a program on the rise so they needed a new facility. They already have a great indoor facility, and the new facility with the locker room under the stadium and the videotron will be huge. Ever since the stadium announcement, I think there has been seven or eight commits, so it’s a huge boost in recruiting.
“We have a group chat with a bunch of the commits, and we’re all just super excited for it and can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Just starting his junior year, Ballance still has plenty of time to mature and develop. With two years left at Cape Henry as well as playing during the summer for a premier showcase team, the EvoShield Canes, Ballance is consistently facing top-of-the-line competition that he says only brings the best out of him.
“I just want to continue to see him work at it,” Hummel said. “Now that he has this opportunity, don’t just settle for that, but continue to get better. The goal was to get to Division I, but now the goal is to go and start as a freshman. There’s a lot of things that you’re going to need to do. Even though you’re ahead of your peers in high school, let’s expand that gap so you can go show that you should be an obvious choice to be in the lineup your first year.”
For Ballance, it’s not just the aspect of a baseball player that he wants to focus on, but also being an all-around student-athlete.
“First, academic wise I want to keep above a 3.3 grade point average,” Ballance explained. “I think academics is just as important as sports is, so keeping that GPA up and staying hard working in the books is very important to me. For baseball wise, it’s all about getting bigger, faster, stronger. Trying to get my weight up while keeping my speed up, and to just overall mature as a person and player.”
While there is still plenty of time before he suits up in the orange and maroon, the future appears bright for Ballance and the Hokies.