Baseball seniors plan to return next year

Baylor lefty pitcher Ryan Leckich winds up for a pitch against Dallas Baptist on Feb. 26, 2019. Leckich is one of four Baylor baseball players that have announced their return next year after the NCAA awarded spring athletes an extra year of eligibility. Lariat File Photo

By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor

Having been granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA after the 2020 season came to an abrupt end, Baylor baseball seniors Andy Thomas, Ryan Leckich, Hayden Kettler and Logan Freeman announced their intent to return to Baylor for a fifth year.

Leckich, a veteran lefty who has been one of the team’s go-to relievers during his time at Baylor, said that it was a relief for the seniors to know they would get the chance to return if they wanted.

“Initially, it was pretty unfortunate, before we knew that we were getting that extra year back,” Leckich said. “I knew pretty much right away that I wanted to come back. I know some other guys want to come back too. And so that’s kind of where I am because I really want to finish playing baseball. I’m not done playing baseball.”

However, both Leckich and Thomas said that they had a few things to consider before making a decision, including continuing their academic education.

“What made it for me to come back or not was if the coaches, first, wanted us all back, if they could make it happen with our athletic department and if they could make it happen with the baseball team,” Thomas said. “But it was never a question of if I wanted to, because I always wanted to. I just needed to make sure that I could get into…a graduate program.”

The current Baylor seniors are part of the 2017 signing class which was the first recruiting class of the Steve Rodriguez era. During his last press conference on March 31, Rodriguez, the Bears’ fifth-year head coach, said these seniors have made a big impact for Baylor baseball.

“The seniors have been paramount to who we are as a coaching staff and our team and their success and I would love to have every one of them back,” Rodriguez said. “But I also know it’s not my decision. There are parents that have to pay for it and there’s things that really have to happen alongside that before all those decisions are made.”

The Bears would have been well into conference play as they were scheduled to host No. 4 Texas Tech this past weekend at Baylor Ballpark. With a couple of series wins under its belt and a sweep of three SEC powerhouses at the Shriners College Classic in Houston, Baylor was just picking up steam prior to its first Big 12 series.

“We had quite a few new guys this year and they kind of started off a little different and struggled a little bit, but then once we played at Minute Maid we really hit our strides. We were playing really well,” Leckich said.

“I could have seen us making a really, really deep run this year,” Thomas said. “We had all the tools to do it. It’s just we were a little bit younger than the year before…I thought we would have done really well. We would have for sure swept Texas Tech.”

Now that the season’s over the Bears have had to fill their time with something other than baseball. In Thomas’s case, the starting catcher was inspired to begin recording a podcast to impart his knowledge of everything from baseball to fishing to TV show recommendations and more.

“I was bored and I listen to different podcasts and whatnot, so I thought to myself, well maybe I can make a podcast and see how bad my skills were,” Thomas said. “It’s been just kind of a hobby that’s occupied some time.”