Every baseball coach loves to have a couple of experienced arms who know what it takes to go through the grind of the season. Coach John Szefc has that in redshirt senior Andrew McDonald. The pitcher from Cincinnati, Ohio had an inflated 7.78 ERA last year due to a few bad outings, but McDonald also led Virginia Tech with 71 strikeouts en route to a 3-3 record. This year, McDonald could again be a starter for the Hokies, or be used in a long relief role out of the bullpen.
Senior Spotlight: Andrew McDonald
Q: Who are your role models in life?
AM: In my life my role models are definitely my parents. Both of them have provided me with everything I could ever ask for. They’ve really shaped who I am as a person.
Q: Which fictional character would you want to meet in real life?
AM: That’s a tough one. Since I’m a huge Sci-Fi fan, I really love Star Wars, so really any character from Star Wars.
Q: What’s the best piece of baseball related advice you’ve ever received?
AM: No matter what happens, good or bad, at the end of the day you’re still playing the game.
Q: What is your favorite baseball memory of all time?
AM: I don’t really have a specific memory that is my favorite. When I look back at baseball, both what I’m doing presently and what I’ve done in the past, the things to me that stick out are the people and the experiences I have with them. In college, my favorite time of the year is when the season starts and we do road trips. Just because you’re with your teammates 24/7 on the bus, plane, whatever it might be. You get to the hotel and you usually pick two or three rooms and that’s where the entire team just decides to cram into and goof off for a couple hours.
Q: You have the bases loaded with two outs and a 3-2 count on the batter. What pitch are you throwing him?
AM: Probably a slider. [I’m a] Big slider guy in full counts.
Q: What are you most excited about heading into your senior season?
AM: I’m really excited for a new season to start. That’s obviously a big plus, but also this new stadium that we’re getting, I’m just itching to see what it’s going to look like as a finished product. I know a lot of people are excited for it.
Q: What do you like the most about Coach Szefc and the new energy he’s brought to the team this far?
AM: Coach Szefc is a real big believer in building relationships with everybody. Yes, he is our coach and he wants us to develop as players, but off the field I really like how well he works at actually building a one-on-one relationship with everybody. You can tell that carries over on the field. Everyone shows up to the field every day and it’s not “Oh, I need to be quiet, coach is walking around.” If you’re goofing off or whatever, he’ll walk up and join right in with the jokes or whatever it may be. That just really helps keep everything upbeat and really makes guys enjoy coming to practice every day.
Q: You were a strikeout pitcher last year with 10.83 strikeouts per nine innings. How are you typically attacking hitters when you’re on the mound to get these high strikeout totals?
AM: Honestly, I didn’t know that was one of my numbers until you brought this up, but I go against hitters and I just stick to my gameplan to attack them. I get ahead early and establish corners of the zone. If I do get ahead, I’m not just looking for a weak contact. I’m looking for them to swing and miss at one point. That’s my mentality when I throw an off-speed pitch, to just make them miss.
Q: Your ERA shot up to 7.78 with a few bad outings last year. What have you been working on in the off-season to be more consistent this year when toeing the rubber?
AM: You said it right there. That was my biggest problem right there, at times I was too inconsistent. I’d have one good outing then I’d go out and have a bad one. That really will screw up your ERA. For me, it’s just being consistent with all of my pitches in the zone. I had an issue last year where I’d have one good inning and the next inning all a sudden I’m throwing everything low and getting behind in counts. For however long I’m out there, whether it’s one batter or whether it’s 9 innings, just being consistent with how I throw every single pitch.
Q: How do you want people to remember Andrew McDonald when you take off the Virginia Tech jersey for the last time?
AM: If we’re being honest, I don’t really care too much if people remember what my numbers were or if they remember how many innings or appearances I had. Yeah, that’s a great thing, but away from everything else I would like everyone to remember who I was as a person and my character. I would like to think that I try my best to build relationships with guys, so when I do have to take the jersey off for the last time it’s going to be a sad moment, but I know for sure there’s going to be a handful of guys who I’ll be able to keep in contact with for the rest of my life.