During the pandemic, spring sport seniors unfortunately will not have the opportunity to compete for the last time, or be fully recognized for contributions and individual accomplishments. Among those accomplished seniors is Lords baseball player Patrick O’Leary ’20.
Baseball wasn’t always easy for Patrick O’Leary. When he was applying to college, many institutions wrote him off due to injury concerns.
“Coach Burdette was the only coach who was willing to take a chance on the kid who had two blown hamstrings,” O’Leary said. “And [I‘d] like to think he made the right decision.” O’Leary has certainly rewarded his coach for taking a risk. His Kenyon career comes to an end this year, but not without some impressive accolades.
Ever since he hit a triple in his first collegiate game, O’Leary has been a tough out in the Lords lineup. He hit .388 in an excellent first-year season, good enough for eighth in the conference. O’Leary’s favorite baseball memory also came during that season, when teammate Phillip Nam ’17 hit a walk-off grand slam. “I had just worked a walk and I was at first at the time when the bases were loaded,” O’Leary recounts. “He deposited a ball over the center field fence against Hiram [College] and it was electric.”
The following year was a struggle early on for the Killingworth, Conn. native, as his average sat at .200 midseason. In his last 15 games, however, he went on a tear, going for 25 for 59 (.424) at the plate. He finished with a .292 average and 28 RBIs. In the final game of the season, Kenyon played at the NCAC conference tournament in Chillicothe, Ohio. O’Leary hit a home run against a 32-9 Denison Unversity team, which meant a lot to the slugger. “Even though we didn’t win that game, the emotion of having a sort of impact on the game at that point was unbelievable,” said O’Leary.
O’Leary’s junior season was by far his best in a Lords uniform. He filled up the boxscore in seemingly every category. The first baseman/designated hitter hit .403 with 10 home runs, 46 RBIs, 21 walks and eight stolen bases. His 10 round-trippers tied him for first in the conference, and his .761 slugging percentage led the league. With a .490 on-base percentage, he reached base safely in nearly half of his plate appearances. These outstanding numbers earned O’Leary a spot on the 2019 All-NCAC Team.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get the chance to build off this incredible season as a senior, but that doesn’t mean the brief 2020 season wasn’t memorable for O’Leary. He feels the cancellation of their season really brought the team together. Their final game was an emotional moment for him and the entire roster.
“Everybody in the infield along with myself was just bawling their eyes out at the end of our final game,” O’Leary said. “It was great to see that the seniors weren’t the only guys who cared about the season. I was crying starting in the bottom of the eigth inning and when we finished, the entire infield, [was] just crying our eyes out at the end.” O’Leary was also moved by the complete-game shutout from his teammate Alex Gow ’21, who he considers one of his closest friends. “To see him pitch to his full potential the last game of my career was all that I could ever ask for. It’s his team from here on out and I expect nothing else but to see him set some records and make me proud,” he said.
Since the pandemic forced the Lords to return to their homes, the team has found new ways to communicate with one another. O’Leary says he and his teammates remain in close contact through their group chat. Many players have also posted quarantine updates on the team’s Instagram account.
Kenyon has taught the legendary Lord many things, but one in particular stands out.
“My professors, and my coaches for that matter, taught me that it was cool to work hard. I busted my butt in both the classroom and the weight room or baseball field to serve as an example to the younger baseball members,” O’Leary said. “I hope to leave the school serving as the prototypical example to carry yourself as an athlete because I have applied myself to so many different facets of student life.”
The economics major will take that lesson with him out into the world, knowing he has left quite the legacy on the diamond. In three-plus seasons, he finished second in school history in slugging percentage and home runs, sixth in RBIs and eighth in batting average. He will surely be missed both on the field and in the classroom.