At the beginning of the season, head coach Gregg Ritchie asked freshman Robbie Metz what his goals were for his first season in a GW uniform.
“I want to win an [Atlantic 10] championship, and maybe even A-10 Rookie of the Year,” Metz answered.
“I want you to be an All-American,” Ritchie responded.
GW baseball hasn’t had an All-American since 2010, when all-time hits and runs leader Tom Zebroski, a shortstop, was named to the third team after his senior season, shortly before he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals.
Early results indicate that the goal is still within reach for Metz: After a white hot start to the season, he ranks first among GW’s starting pitchers with a 1.82 ERA and 3-1 record across six starts while hitting .292 out of the two-hole. But the pitcher and second baseman has been challenged by the grind of playing two positions in a season that could go more than 50 games.
“In high school, I was one of the better players on the team and didn’t have to work as hard, but here I’ve been realizing that I’ve got to step up my game and make sure that I get better and help the team out,” Metz said. “Sometimes I have to go through the pain a little bit.”
Metz never considered GW early in the recruiting process, but when Ritchie and the rest of the coaching staff started pursuing him aggressively, Metz was all ears.
A local player out of Poolesville, Md., Metz was ranked by Perfect Game as the No. 10 prospect and the top shortstop prospect out of his state. Considered a rare six-tool talent, the prized recruit finished a dominant senior season batting .462 as his school’s starting shortstop while also posting a 7-0 record, 0.15 ERA and 70 strikeouts as a starting pitcher.
He was happy to stay near home and was drawn to the idea of playing in D.C., where his parents work and frequently come to games.
“Out of high school, he was a big get for us,” Ritchie said. “He has a diverse set of skills: He can hit, pitch, field and run. I expected big things out of him and he hasn’t disappointed.”
Metz was un-hittable at the high school level and outclassed most of his competition at the plate. Rival high schools created parody Twitter accounts about him to try to get a rise out of him. But he didn’t give them much material to work with and the accounts had to resort to tweets like “Most likely to strikeout Robbie Metz: Robbie Metz,” and “Robbie Metz confirms that he will also play wide receiver at GW.”
But in Division I college baseball, Metz has faced stiffer competition. He’s also had to get used to playing with much less rest than he had in high school, and he’s struggled to keep up his play. He boasted a perfect 2-0 record and 0.57 ERA through March 28 but was 0-for-4 and gave up five runs in 2.1 innings in a loss at Massachusetts on April 3, which he said he felt was due to fatigue.
“I was doing really well. Right around now, I’m starting to cool down, but I’m trying to get back up there,” Metz said. “My pitching, my arm has been sore lately, so that’s definitely been a big part of why I’m not pitching that well either.”
But he may have started to turn the corner. In GW’s 4-1 win over Dayton on Saturday, Metz threw a quality start, giving up just one run on six hits. He struck out four and didn’t walk a batter, while finishing 2-for-4 at the plate with two singles. He was 0-for-3 on Sunday, but scored a run after taking a walk.
He said he felt confident that he could work out of his slump because he was seeing the ball well, and he knew his coaches and teammates would help him until he got his connection back.
He made a splash early on in the season as one of the winners of the team’s preseason laser tag competition and as one of the most frequently mentioned names in the “best beard” debate.
He said his teammates knew he would be good at laser tag because he’s an avid hunter, and they unsuccessfully tried to stay away from him. But in case there was any love lost, Metz let the team sample his homemade jerky with flavors like pepper and teriyaki. Pepper was the unanimous favorite.
“I basically learned from my dad,” Metz said. “We’d always go out there hunting, so we’d skin the deer and then we would bring it back and then you’ve got to get all the fat off of it and then you have to cut up the little pieces. Then marinade it and put it in the fridge for a day or so and then you put it in the smoker for five or six hours.”
Growing up in western Maryland, Metz has always been an outdoorsy kid. Originally a soccer player, he got his start in baseball when his dad signed him up for the local team, after watching his son throw rocks around their backyard and noticing he had a good arm.
Ritchie, too, enjoys the all-natural beef jerky, but what he appreciates more is Metz’s character, which he described as “emotionally composed when he is hanging out with the team as he is on the mound,” and said was his top priority in evaluating recruits. With Metz starting to find a second wind as he adjusts to the college game, Ritchie said others are taking note.
“This kid is doing some special things,” said Ritchie. “The chatter around the league, and around the country is that he is a heck of a player.”