A balancing act of large proportion

Collegiate baseball players are faced with constant challenges of finding ways to effectively divide their time between being successful on the field and in the classroom. It’s somewhat typical for student-athletes to perform at a high level in just one of those areas, but senior first baseman Evan McDole has found a way to strive in both.

As a baseball player at Northern Kentucky University, McDole currently ranks seventh all-time with 22 career home runs. John Heeter, who compiled 48 during his career at NKU, is the all-time leader.

McDole was a key contributor to the success of the 2009 Norse baseball team as NKU won its second straight Great Lakes Valley Conference championship. Last season, McDole had a batting average of .355, a team high 15 homeruns — three shy of the single-season home run record of 18 — and 55 runs batted in. McDole added 17 doubles, scored 58 runs and broke a school record by being walked 45 times.

His season didn’t go unnoticed either, as McDole’s junior season is one of the most decorated efforts in Norse baseball history. He was honored as the GLVC Player of the Year, the American Baseball Coaches Association and Daktronics Midwest Region Player of the Year, an ABCA third-team All-American, an ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American second-team honoree and an ABCA Gold Glove recipient, according to the NKU sports information Web site. He did all of this while maintaining a 3.8 grade point average.

“It’s definitely an honor to accomplish everything I have done,” McDole said. “It’s also a lot of dedication and sacrifice that I believe has paid off in the end, and that’s something I can be proud of.”

With the success McDole’s had for the Norse, he has become a vital asset to the middle of the lineup, as well as a solid defensive first baseman. With such consistency in the middle of the order, McDole has become someone his teammates feel they can count on to come through in big situations.

“(McDole) is a big left-handed bat that comes up big for us most of the time,” said senior centerfielder and Co- Captain Jason Cisper, “He is one of the guys I count on to knock me in and give us an early lead and a jump on the competition. He is also a sur-prising athlete, and you don’t expect him to make the plays that he makes in the field.”

McDole has been voted by his teammates to be a captain on this season’s team and has personally taken the responsibility of trying to lead this team deep into the NCAA tournament.

McDole has also been named a preseason All-American, according to the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.

“Our captains put in the extra effort. We have the de- sire to get better everyday; it’s the time and effort we put in everyday,” McDole said. “Hopefully that trans- fers to the other players and they follow our example.”

While enjoying the success and the honors that McDole has earned, he also knows that there is still work to be done this season. NKU is looking to not only build on the GLVC championship they won last season, but also use the disappointment of losing in the NCAA re- gional tournament to drive them to further success. They have been picked to win the GLVC, but the Norse expect much more success this sea- son, and McDole has made the 2010 baseball team’s goals very clear.

“We are expecting to do really big things,” McDole said. “Anything less than a regional title this year will be a failure — especially with all of the experience and the hungriness that we have from losing at the end of last year.”

McDole’s success on the field has equally translated into success in the classroom, as his 3.8 GPA would indicate. As an accounting major, McDole is set to graduate this spring and will be starting a job at Grant Thornton as an accountant in September.

He says that his success in the classroom is just as, or even more, important than his success on the field.

“School has always been number one, and my parents have always pushed it,” McDole said. “Obviously, I see now that it has really paid off to hit the books. Making good grades and having a good résumé out there really helped me gain my internship and has turned into a job offer, so it has really paid off.”

NKU will open their first home game at 2 p.m. March 11 against UC Clermont. They currently hold a 4-2 record after sweeping a se- ries from Christian Brothers over the weekend in Mem- phis, Tenn., by scores of 20-3 and 9-4 on Saturday and 15-1 on Sunday.

Story by Nick Jones