When Brendon Kelliher started playing baseball, the bat was bigger than he was.
The Sandwich, Mass., native eventually filled out and developed his talents on the field. But as a senior in high school, Kelliher was scouted by only one Division I collegiate baseball program. It was disappointing, he said, but not unsurprising - it's often hard for baseball players in the Northeast to compete with southern programs. When Kelliher came to GW, he was determined to make a mark - and now, as a college senior, when Kelliher steps up to the plate, it means power.
"I thought I had pretty good numbers and performed well at the high school level, but being up in that northern atmosphere, you don't get a lot of looks from the southern scouts," Kelliher said. "The opportunity is hard to come by. So when you get a chance, which I got, you have to take it."
The centerfielder has carved out a position as the Colonials' go-to at-bat, the hitter the team looks to for home runs and key offensive plays. Kelliher is seventh in program history for home runs (35), is tenth in hits (214) and 11th in RBIs (145). It's a record of success at the plate that Kelliher's cultivated in his four seasons as a starting member of the baseball team.
Kelliher wasn't always such a force to be reckoned with at the plate. During his first two seasons as a Colonial, Kelliher hit seven total home runs and combined for 75 hits. They were respectable offensive numbers, but he knew he could do better. So Kelliher got to work, adjusting his stance and breaking down his swing over and over with his coaches. A lot of hard work - and a little superstition - paid off.
"It's tough to describe how you become a power hitter. Getting in the weight room and keeping up with your weight program is something that's helped contribute," Kelliher said. "I've changed my stance up quite a few times. It kind of goes on a day-to-day basis. It's more where you feel comfortable, and sort of superstition, I guess. When I'm starting to hit the ball well with my hands down, I'm going to keep them there, until things start going in the opposite direction."
In the 2010 season, Kelliher posted a .381 batting average, earning 56 RBIs and hitting 15 home runs, which more than doubled his previous two seasons combined. So far in the 2011 season, he's had two separate 11-game hitting streaks and 13 solo home runs, second in the A-10. Kelliher's become the power hitter for the Colonials but he attributes much of his success to the efforts of his teammates.
"My teammates have put me in spots where I can get some of the numbers I've had," Kelliher said. "As far as the coaches, they're constantly working with you, working on your swing, every day. They're just trying to help you so that you can get the best results."
Last summer, Kelliher took his talents to another team, playing for the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He finished the 47-game season with three home runs and 20 RBIs, ranking second on the team. It was a chance for Kelliher to both be close to home and to explore what it feels like to play for a new program.
Buoyed by his success with the Colonials and the Gulls, Kelliher's set his post-grad sights on professional baseball. He is a few credits shy of graduating, but before he returns in the fall to complete a degree, Kelliher plans to chase his dreams, hoping to be drafted in June. It's a process he's somewhat familiar with, since former roommate and Colonials teammate Eric Cantrell was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in last year's Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft. Kelliher knows the draft - and the play that could follow - will be challenging, but he's confident in his abilities.
"People are fighting to move up to the next level, it's a dog-eat-dog world. It's kind of an eye opener for some people who aren't prepared for it," Kelliher said. "You talk to people that tell you that you have a good gift, and that you need to pursue it for as long as you can. Because once it's over, it's over. Playing professional baseball would be, well, I'm lost for words right now. But it would be something that I've been working towards for a long time."