Life as a college freshman is a tough adjustment for any young person.
Going from high school to life on your own in a new place takes time to adapt and establish some sort of foundation. So, when West York grad Brett Kinneman headed south to North Carolina State this past fall, he knew his life was about to change, and it was going to take some time to get comfortable.
In addition, he was also a highly-recruited baseball player out of high school, which meant he would have to concentrate on more than just school work when he arrived in Raleigh. So, it would be easy to understand if it took weeks, even months, to fully feel at home.
"There was definitely a bit of an adjustment period, but I feel like I've adjusted pretty well," he said. "There's a lot more on the plate than usual."
However, even Kinneman would probably admit that his rapid acclimation to, not only his new surroundings, but to life as an NCAA Division I athlete, came as a bit of a shock.
Local star: Back home in York, Kinneman was essentially a big fish in a small pond.
The area has produced, and continues to churn out, D-I baseball players on an annual basis. Just in the York-Adams League this year, there are close to a half dozen kids already committed to D-I schools. However, few have garnered the attention that surrounded Kinneman during his time at West York.
He wasn't just going D-I, he was going to a big-time program in the Wolfpack, a team that plays in the powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference. If you can achieve success in that league, you're among the nation's best. So, every time you took in a Bulldogs baseball game last spring, it didn't take much effort to find your way into a conversation about how Kinneman was the kid going to N,C. State to play baseball. It was that big of a deal.
As a pitcher, he went 5-0 with a 2.33 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 33 innings last season. But, he was an even better hitter and fielder, and was part of both of West York's back-to-back state titles in 2012 and 2013. He was ranked the No. 22 prospect in Pennsylvania for the 2015 MLB Draft by Baseball America, yet spurned pro baseball to play at the college level.
Quickly, however, Kinneman is blossoming into a star on that stage as well.
"You go through a bit of a culture shock": Sure, there were growing pains for Kinneman when he first arrived at N.C. State. But, that's why there's a fall season.
"You go through a bit of a culture shock in those first few weeks when you get here," he said. "You see guys from when you visited and you saw them play and you say, 'Wow, those are really good players.' And for whatever, those first couple weeks you say to yourself, 'Man, I need to be as good as these guys.' So, I think there's always a bit of that culture shock the first couple weeks until you settle in and just play your game."
The fall season, when the team would play inter-squad scrimmages and Kinneman would get valuable reps against live college pitching, helped him relax and get back to playing his game.
By the time the spring season rolled around, he was ready to make an impact.
Sudden impact: If there was any part of college that took the most time to adjust to from high school for Kinneman, it wasn't the baseball or the school work, but, instead, the time management.
At West York, he had a set routine — school until about 2:30 p.m., baseball in the early afternoon and evening and then homework at night. However, baseball only ever occupied a few hours of Kinneman's time on a given day. In college, however, he can have three hours of classes in the morning, followed by up to four or five hours of practice and weight training and then onto homework.
Baseball always came naturally for Kinneman, so when the season began, he was ready to perform. He just needed the opportunity.
It took him a while to get that chance. Early on, he saw just occasional time as a pinch-hitter. After all, how much of a role is there for a true freshman on the 11th-ranked team in the country?
As it turns out, recently, Kinneman has had a major role. Over the last seven games, Kinneman has started every single one in left field. That increased playing time has led to increased production at the plate, where he's hitting .361 on the year, slugging .433 and driven in 11 runs. Of those 11 RBIs, seven came in the Wolfpack's last game on Tuesday night against Elon. It was a 23-3 win for N.C. State and Kinneman contributed nearly one-third of the offense. It was something he had never done, even in high school.
"Obviously I saw the ball very well (Tuesday) night," he said. "...But, a lot of guys got on base and I was fortunate to come up with guys on base three or four times (Tuesday) night, saw the ball well and got a couple key hits."
It was a career night for the talented freshman. Now that he's done it once, however, he'll be expected to continue his production. Rather than being a big fish in a small pond, he's now a little fish in a big pond.
But, he's quickly becoming larger.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com