It’s been nearly two years since Slippery Rock’s baseball team picked up a transfer from West Virginia University. Now the starting catcher for The Rock, Connor Hamilton, has played a huge role in the success The Rock has had on the field.
“I visited West Virginia after those coaches came to watch me, and I made the trip to Morgantown and right off the bat, I knew that I liked it a lot and I committed to there as a junior in high school,” Hamilton said.
During his two years at WVU, he played in 34 games. However, when he was there, something felt off. Hamilton explained that it was a really cool experience to be able to play against high-level talent, but he felt he couldn’t succeed there as much as he wanted to. Because of that, after his sophomore year, he decided to enter the transfer portal.
“I came from a small school and there I was always the standout, so it was a humbling experience playing at West Virginia and playing with some of the best kids in the country,” Hamilton said. “It was a great experience, but I had some older guys in front of me and I didn’t want to sit around and watch other people play. I wanted to be somewhere where I could enjoy baseball, and Slippery Rock is that place for me.”
Hamilton entered the portal in June, so he had to make a quick decision on where he wanted to play. He received a call from Rock head coach Jeff Messer and that played a big part in his decision to come to The Rock.
“Coach Messer asked me to come play for him and I came down and visited, and right away I knew it would be a good place for me to fit in and help this team win,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton got his first taste of Slippery Rock baseball last year before the COVID-19 pandemic began. He started all ten games that The Rock played last year. In those games, Hamilton hit .378 while scoring eight runs, hitting three home runs, and had nine RBI. Hamilton made his presence felt and helped The Rock get off to a 7-3 start before the season was ultimately canceled.
Last summer, Hamilton was able to play in a summer baseball league and he thinks that it was extremely helpful being able to get some at-bats. Many other players on the team weren’t as lucky though and nearly went a year without playing a game. However, the team has good chemistry, according to Hamilton, so they haven’t missed a beat.
“I honestly think Div. II baseball is underrated, because I really wasn’t expecting the competition to be as good as it was, and I think coming to Slippery Rock has made me feel like a standout again,” Hamilton said.
In that short time, Hamilton said that he really enjoyed playing with the team and that led into this season as well. He thinks that the atmosphere makes this team different, and it was exactly what he was looking for.
“It’s very team oriented and there’s no pressure like you have at the bigger levels, and sometimes when you’re in those pressure situations it’s hard to be yourself,” Hamilton said. “The way Coach Messer runs things it’s easy to just go out and play baseball and not have to worry about anything.”
Pressure is something Hamilton believes Coach Messer does a good job of handling. This season, the team has a record of 14-5 and Hamilton says they’ve felt no pressure at all. The team has played a majority of their games at home as well, so that added pressure of staying safe has also been easier on the team. Hamilton went on to explain that he thinks the entire team has done a great job of staying safe.
“We’ve been taking this COVID thing very seriously and we haven’t been shut down yet, but it’s been disappointing because some of the teams we’ve been scheduled to face have been dealing with some problems,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a good thing in a way, though, because we’ve been more focused, and we’ve made sure everyone knows that a party isn’t worth missing any games.”
This season, Hamilton has put up impressive numbers so far. At the plate, he’s hitting .484 while starting every game and has driven in 18 RBI. He’s also hit two home runs and eight doubles.
Now The Rock is heading into the final stretch of the season, and Hamilton’s bat is going to play a big part in where the team winds up in the standings. He thinks that this team can make in deep in the PSAC tournament, and a large reason for that is due to the leadership on the team.
“I try to pick up other guys and encourage them, because in my opinion if you’re losing then it doesn’t matter how well you personally are doing,” Hamilton said. “If I have a bad day, I don’t care as long as everyone else is doing good and we’re winning.”