For the second year in a row, Rob McWilliams is having a heck of a comeback season.
Now a senior, when McWilliams was a sophomore, he was preparing to start at second base for the Archbishop Ryan High School baseball team. Then a few days before the season started, he found himself on the sidelines.
“I was just messing around, playing basketball, and I fell,” McWilliams said. “I used my arm to break my fall and I broke my elbow. It was awful, completely snapped.
“It was so bad that if I wanted to make it go straight, I was going to have to get Tommy John surgery. I decided against it. It healed, but I couldn’t straighten it. It happened before the high school season and I wasn’t able to come back until the very end of the summer. It took a while to heal.”
By the time he was a junior, McWilliams was back in the lineup. He was ready to play, but he didn’t have the type of season he wanted to.
The team was successful, but McWilliams didn’t have the type of season he knew he was capable of having.
But he is this year.
McWilliams is hitting over .300 on the year as he sets the table for the Raiders offense that has been at times very effective.
“Last year, I didn’t hit .200, and for most of the year, I was around .100,” McWilliams said. “I don’t know what was wrong, I just wasn’t playing well. I think it was more mental than physical. This year, I think I’m a better player, mentally. I’m more mature and I’m more comfortable. Last year, it just didn’t go right.”
McWilliams has been one of the better hitters in the Catholic League and the Raiders have hung tough all season, but after advancing to the Catholic League semifinals a season ago, Ryan has struggled at times this year.
The Raiders are 2–9 on the season and have been eliminated from playoff contention this year. While the record is disappointing, McWilliams believes the team was a hit or two away from being one of the better teams in the Catholic League.
So while the results are disappointing, the team has many reasons to be proud of what they’ve accomplished.
“It seems like every game, we are one hit away from winning, even against good teams,” said McWilliams, who lives in Morrell Park. “Last year was so great, it was just perfect. This year, we just haven’t been able to win big games. But I’m proud of all the guys. Everyone is giving it everything they have. They haven’t quit. We’re just trying to win and have fun at the same time.”
And being the leader that he is, McWilliams is far more disappointed for his teammates than he is for himself.
Sure, he would like to win a championship before he leaves Ryan, but he feels worse for his teammates who will never get to experience the thrill of a title.
“I really feel bad for our pitchers (Jason) Keen and (Brennan) Hatala,” McWilliams said. “It was bad because they really did everything they could to help us. We wanted to have the type of season we did last year, and we did everything we could to do it. Every game, we’d make a mistake or have a bad inning and it would ruin it. It’s tough to go out that way, but it’s good that we all stuck together and played hard all year.”
McWilliams may not win a championship at Ryan, but he still has a chance to have a memorable career at the college level.
Next year, he’s headed to Penn State Brandywine and he’s already talked to the coach about playing.
While there, he’ll major in communications, but he isn’t looking to get a job in that field when he graduates.
“I really want to be a homicide detective,” McWilliams said. “I love watching all of those shows, Law & Order and NCIS. I love to try and figure those things out.
“They say communications is a good major because in that field, you really have to talk to people. Majoring in criminal justice isn’t as good as communications. You’ll talk to a lot of people when you’re trying to figure things out. I think it will definitely help.”
He’s also looking forward to playing baseball. Although he’ll miss his friends at Ryan, he’s happy he’s going on to get another chance at a championship.
“Leaving Ryan is tough because we’re all best friends,” McWilliams said. “Next year will be good, I’ll get to meet a lot of people and I know a few guys going there. But I loved Ryan. I really loved playing here, I loved the school. It will be tough not being around these guys any more. But we had a great time and even though we didn’t go as far as we wanted to, we had a fun year.”