McNary baseball turns to seniors to lead

McNary meets as a team prior to the start of the March 7 practice at McNary High School.

One thing we know about baseball: pitching is a crucial part of the game. And for the McNary Celtics this spring, they’ll have a nice little bullpen to go to once the game starts on March 16 at Lakeridge.

Eben Meyer, Logan Ready, Hayden Kaiser, Jake Allen, Carter Hawley all saw varsity pitching experience, accruing about 100 innings between them entering this season coming off the Celtics 12-8 spring season this past year.  

In addition to the five pitchers, head coach Larry Keeker is expecting sophomore Trevor Ratliff, junior Anthony Cepeda and freshman Jordan Araiza to add depth to the rotation. All in expectation to competing a tough Mountain Valley Conference with the likes of West Salem, Sprague, Mountain View and Bend this upcoming seasoan.

“Our league is good and not just our teams in town, it’s also the Bend schools…it’s going to be a good experience for us. It’s going to be a battle every game, for every team,” Keeker describes. “So, it’ll be interesting to see how everything plays out.”

This senior class, said Keeker, is talented. He knew that coming into McNary four years ago. Pointing towards Ready, Meyer, Kaiser, Zane Aicher, Gunner Smedema and Quinn Bach to be their ‘staple’ of their program. 

They bring in a lot of baseball experience into the program and will be looked to be the trend setters as they enter this season.

“If you just start with the core senior class, that’s going to be…they’re going to be the staple of our team in terms of leadership,” Keeker said. “Setting the standard of how we practice and how we play, what our culture is going to be. It’s all going to start with those six seniors. There’s no doubt about it.”

But here’s the trick. How can they convey that leadership? Yes, they know the standard and the expectations, but they have to learn how to be the leaders they and Keeker are expecting of them this spring.

It is something he’s gone over a few times with his senior leaders going into the second week of the season.

“I’ve already discussed this with our senior class. They know the standard that I expect, however, they never really had guys in front of them to show them how to lead. So, they have a lot to learn to be leaders,” Keeker said. “They’re quality kids and quality people, so it’s just a matter of me training them and reminding them ‘hey, is this what we want this to look like or are we going for a higher standard?’”

“They know, but they’ve had no one to look at as they were coming up to be perfectly honest. They’re going to lead the way, but they’ve gotten a lot to learn about true leadership as well.”

Keeker points to their leadership traits already: Reliability. Good students and good community members. They’re already there.

Now it’s just a matter of taking those traits and putting them into play. In practice and game-like situations.

“A lot of those traits that a leader would have been in place. Now it’s just taking those types of attitudes and behaviors and putting them into a practice situation. Putting them in a drill, putting them into warming up and into the culture of our dugout during a game. All of that is going to fall, not all but some of it is going to fall on their leadership and how we conduct ourselves in practice and games,” Keeker said.

McNary will have plenty of practice in the meantime as their first game won’t be until March 16 on the road and their first home game not until March 18 against Tualatin.

McNary Head Coach Larry Keeker (left) speaks with a player at the start of practice.