By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Ryan McBroom couldn’t quite believe it had come this quickly, his Senior Day, the final game he would play in Hawley Field in what would be the final West Virginia baseball game ever played in Hawley Field with the new stadium now under construction.
In some ways it felt like he’d been at WVU forever. In other ways it seemed like only yesterday that he’d been here.
Senior Day …
“It was something I never really experienced before,” he said when it was over, the Mountaineers’ 12-6 victory secure. “When I was younger, I always looked up to the seniors. It was like ‘Wow! They’re pretty old.’”
Now he was the old man.
“I could never imagine myself in
that position,” he said. “I don’t think it has really hit me yet. I don’t feel like it was my last game here, but I’m sure it will hit me soon.”
It will probably hit him as hard as he hit Texas, collecting three hits and a pair of RBIs to solidify his place even more in the top 10 in nearly every Mountaineer career offensive category in the books … save for stolen bases, which ain’t his thing.
It almost was that he wasn’t here this season. Upon finishing his junior year, a season in which he hit just .268 but pounded 12 homers — more than any two other players on the team hit combined — and drove in 48 runs, again tops on the Mountaineers, he could have left Morgantown.
That led Kansas City to draft him and offer him a decent contract.
“That was a tough decision. Kansas City offered me a great deal, but deep down in my heart and my gut it was the right decision to come back to Morgantown to finish what we started,” he said. “Last year we had a great year, but it was kind of disappointing the way it ended. We didn’t control our own destiny. Another team had to win for us to go on and I didn’t think that was right. I wanted to come back with this same group of guys and give it another shot.”
Indeed, McBroom had been part of a baseball revival at WVU under Mazey.
“I feel like it’s definitely a new era, especially going into a new conference with a new coaching staff. I think recruiting is going to be crazy with this new stadium coming in. The tradition of West Virginia is definitely on the rise,” he said.
It is more than just a renewal of success on the field. This has become a team that has taken over the entire community with its character, dating back to last year when it went to the aid of tornado victims in Oklahoma.
In fact, following the game a WVU player was walking back toward their locker room when he was engaged by a fan, who told him how proud he was of this team, proud of the way they were representing WVU and what they had done for the tornado victims.
“You know,” the player said to him, “I was here back before the coaching change and we wouldn’t have done the things we’ve done then.”
The community has bought in.
“A couple of times I came out to coach third base and I looked down the left field line on that hillside and it was just littered with people. Every seat was taken. I told someone before the game, look how far we’ve come in such a short period of time,” Mazey said.
“Texas comes to town and the community rallies around us. I made a plea to everyone to come out and help us win, not just watch the game, and they did that.”
And it’s people like McBroom who have made it possible.
“He’s one of the first guys I talked to when I got this job,” Mazey said. “People ask me about him all the time. He’s the kid on the team you’d want your daughter to marry. He’s an unbelievable person. He has a great family, is a great student and is a great player, obviously.
“He turned down a nice contract to sign with the Royals last year to come back. It’s going to be sad to see him go. If we could have nine Ryan McBrooms on the team, that’s what coaching is all about.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter at @bhertzel