After a standout baseball career with Highland that ended with him being named honorable mention All-Ohio in Division II, Rider Minnick’s next step will be Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

“It’s got such a great home-like feel,” he said. “The coaches are incredible and the team is so great at bringing me in and feel like I’m at home. The academics are great.”

Minnick, who will major in nursing, picked MVNU over a number of other schools, including Wright State University – Lake Campus, Taylor, Heidelberg, Wittenberg and Baldwin-Wallace. On the baseball team, he expects to continue playing in the infield.

“I’m looking to play the middles,” he said. “They might throw me out a third a little.”

Baseball has been a life-long love of Minnick, who noted that he was playing ball with his grandfather at a very young age. Moving on to the collegiate game is a step that he’s very glad to be taking.

“It’s been a dream since day one,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be one since I saw it on TV. I’ve always wanted to play with that kind of competition.”

Minnick feels he’ll be able to offer his new home a lot on the field, citing his throwing arm, bat and leadership abilities as strengths, as well as his love of the game.

“Since I was little, I’ve played all year,” he said. “In high school, I played basketball in the winter, but in middle school and below, it’s been all year long. I love it.”

One of his favorite aspects of the game is how there always are improvements to be made.

“You never can be perfect,” he said. “You can always find something. It’s a lot of hard work and passion.”

Now that he’ll be moving up to a higher level of play, Minnick is expecting to have to put in that work in order to earn regular playing time.

“For hitting, I’ll definitely have catch up to the speed,” he said. “Defensively, I”ll have to be quicker with my hands and get the ball out quicker and be on time with everything.”

Playing for the Highland program in high school has helped provide Minnick with many great memories to take with him.

“My freshman year with (current Clemson pitcher) Mack Anglin,” he said. “And last year going to regionals. The chemistry we had last year was top notch. I don’t know if I can recreate it.”

That year also allowed Minnick to play in some big games he looked at as great preparation for the college game — such as Highland’s dramatic 4-3 win over Lakewood in 11 innings in the district finals.

“Getting those games, you get a level of confidence,” he said. “Rely on your teammates to pull you through in the 11th and to be able to stay calm and persevere through big clutch moments.”

Now, he’s hoping to be part of more big moments with MVNU.

“I’m looking forward to the atmosphere and constant competition,” he said. “Everyone will be focusing and working hard. It’s going to be fun.”

Highland graduate Rider Minnick will continue to play baseball for Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Pictured with him are his parents, Kristie and Bill. graduate Rider Minnick will continue to play baseball for Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Pictured with him are his parents, Kristie and Bill. Rob Hamilton | Morrow County Sentinel

By Rob Hamilton

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Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS