By Patrick Cooley, Sports Editor
UNO catcher Colby McCord has started every game this season for the UNO baseball team (27-12, 23-11 MIAA). The junior is batting .336 with four home runs and a team-best 34 RBIs. The Papillion native hit three home runs and drove in 11 runs in last Friday’s sweep of Fort Hays State.
In addition to his hitting duties, McCord is in charge of the UNO pitching staff, which includes junior all-American Joe Holtmeyer, who struck out 152 batters in 87 innings last season.
The Gateway caught up with McCord recently to shoot the breeze.
Patrick Cooley:How has your year compared to last so far?
Colby McCord:This year is a lot different. Last year I caught a little bit, pitched a little bit and was the designated hitter at times as well. This year I am catching every day.
Last year we had so many injuries, so we had to have a lot of people step in and pick up responsibilities that normally wouldn’t have to. This year we have had some injuries and I think we have more players on our team this year that are more versatile and can play more positions, which doesn’t put our team in such a bind for the most part.
PC:What’s it like catching Joe Holtmeyer? What’s his toughest pitch?
CM:Joe is a difficult pitcher to catch because he throws hard and has good movement on his pitches, which makes him so effective. Joe is a competitor on the mound. He is always giving 100 percent effort and he knows how to compete through controversy. Last year he led the nation in strikeouts and a lot of that was because of his change-up/fork ball. He throws it with good velocity and great bite at the end. It makes it very difficult for batters to hit.
PC:Why catcher? When was the first time you got behind the plate?
CM:I’ve been behind the plate since day one. I grew up playing catcher because I followed [in] the footsteps of my father. I love the position because you are in action on every play that happens. I like being able to make hitters look silly at the plate by different pitch calls and locations.
It might sound crazy, but I like getting beat up. It’s a good feeling when a pitcher throws a ball in the dirt and I do my job by blocking it – it’s a good feeling.
PC:What’s it like playing with fellow Papillion-La Vista graduate Tyler Davies? Did you ever think you’d be playing with someone 10 years older than you?
CM:Tyler’s a blast to play with. It’s funny because Tyler actually coached me when I was 12, so I have had the luxury of knowing him for years. Tyler brings the team great leadership qualities and experience because he’s 30. I never thought in my years of playing I would play with someone that is 10 years older than me. I guess that’s why Tyler has established the nickname “Dad.” The only time I ever thought I’d play with someone that age is in slow pitch softball. After serving in Iraq for six years, Tyler knows a little something about adversity and coming together when times get rough.
PC:What’s going to be the deciding factor in whether or not the 2011 season ends on a positive note?
CM:When you look at our team as a whole you can see that we have good pitching, good hitting and good defense. But just like every team, we have to put it together all at once. I think right now there are games where we might pitch great and the defense won’t be there for support. We have to find a way to put everything together for more than just one or two game. Get some momentum going where everything is clicking. If that happens, I believe we can compete with any team in the nation.
PC:What are your thoughts about Division I baseball?
CM:Going Division I is a college athlete’s dream. I would have to say the MIAA is just as good as many Division I conferences. Central Missouri and Emporia State are great baseball programs. Making the change will be good for the school in the long term and it will be good for the baseball program.
I think too many kids in Omaha and Nebraska feel they are D-I caliber players and so they don’t settle for anything less than the University of Nebraska-Lincoln even though UNO is just as good a program. It will be good to play at that level, and I believe we will get more community support out of it.
PC:High or low socks? Batting gloves or bare hands? Knee savers?
CM:We have a team rule here at UNO that you have to wear your pants down. I feel that if you wear your pants up you look like a little league team. I like to feel comfortable when I play, so I like to have my pants just like my sweatpants.
I am a batting gloves guy, especially here in Omaha where we play in games that are 25-30 degrees. I like to use pine tar on my bat, so batting gloves help with grip and they also keep my hands dry on hot, sweaty days.
Knee savers? No way. I feel that if I have to have a pillow to sit back on while squatting then I need to hang it up. I did experiments with knee savers when I was very little and never felt comfortable with them, so I haven’t worn them since.