Changing Seasons: A summer in the FCBL preps MJ Metz for spring baseball

Junior MJ Metz emerges as a leader for Trinity’s 2022 baseball season after a summer playing in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL)

Junior MJ Metz stands in from the left side of the plate at 6 foot 5 inches, 225 pounds. He’s physically intimidating as is, but when you put a baseball bat in his hands he has the capacity to truly terrorize opposing pitchers.

What comes with such an immense frame are a number of moving parts. When they work in unison, the baseball flies off the bat with ease for the Trinity third baseman (watch here at 2:28:25). But as is the case for all baseball players, Metz included, this doesn’t always hold true. For some, the issue is timing; for others, a slight breakdown in mechanics; for a few, and at times for MJ Metz, it’s the mind that gets in the way.

Metz first stepped on campus in 2018, a product of Canyon Crest Academy in his hometown of San Diego, California.

“Coming to Trinity I didn’t really know what to expect my freshman year. I was put in a position where I ended up winning a job, and then kind of lost it, and then towards the end of a team that won a SCAC championship, I was just kind of a filler guy looking to make an impact anywhere I could,” Metz said.

But nine seniors departed at the end of that season. When Metz stepped back on campus the next fall, he suddenly found himself in a leadership position, captaining one of four teams that would scrimmage against each other within the program. He was the only sophomore to do so.

“The physical traits and the way he hits the ball and his cannon of an arm, that puts you at the top of the list as far as potential leaders of the team,” said Andrews Waters, an assistant coach for the Tigers, when asked of the role and responsibility entrusted to MJ in his second year.

“But, real respect on a baseball team is how you go about your business everyday, the consistency of who you are as a guy. Especially in the game of failure … You just carry that load well, and MJ does that really well,” said Waters.

Spring came, and with it, the official season arrived. But just as quickly as things started, they ended due to the pandemic. All the work that had been put in leading to that point seemed all for naught as Metz and teammates returned home to quarantine.

But as things progressed, allowing for some returns to normalcy, Metz resumed his training with one of his coaches from home. Due to the pandemic, minor league baseball canceled seasons across all levels, leaving numerous professionals in a similar position to MJ and collegiate players across the country. It allowed for a unique opportunity: to train with and compete against minor league pitchers, something that Metz viewed as a major step for himself, and an opportunity that he recognizes was not afforded to many.

Things looked different the next fall on a mostly empty Trinity campus. COVID restrictions heavily influenced the athletic department, as the baseball team spent a whole year without a locker room. Despite this, they were able to find ways to get their workouts in; in smaller groups, at different times, making sure things got done.

But other problems would arise. Because of a season lost to COVID, seniors from a year prior had been granted an extra year of eligibility. They returned, but the program also welcomed in a group of transfers and a brand new freshman class.

There were conflicting moods in what was described as a “house divided;” a group of young new players who were eager and hungry, and veterans who, with experience and expectations that set their sights deeper into the season, didn’t quite match the intensity.

As these fifth years have left the program, there has been “a flip to the guys that have a lot of energy and excitement, and Metz is honestly one of the leaders of that thing,” Waters said.

This thought seems especially evident now, after one of the most transformative experiences of his playing career: a summer spent with the Vermont Lake Monsters of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL).

Metz left for Vermont just shortly after the Tigers were eliminated from the St. Paul Regional of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament in late May. There, he would play in 49 games and receive over 150 at-bats, compared to the 25 and 79 he had in the preceding spring at Trinity.

“It was a little taste of what professional baseball would be like. Waking up. Getting your lift in. Getting to the field for early work. Batting practice. Game. Ends at 10 o’clock. Sleep. Do it all again the next day. And that’s just at home,” Metz said.

He had the opportunity to play with and against players from the highest levels of college baseball, including some from Vanderbilt, Boston College, Georgetown, the University of Virginia, and even some teammates from Trinity: junior outfielder Brian Schaub and junior pitcher Samuel Conte.

“Obviously, having played with MJ in the fall and spring of last year we were already familiar with and knew each other, but having this experience with so many long and hard days together helped us grow closer than ever,” Schaub said.

Schaub, a transfer from the University of Richmond, applauded the steps Metz took this summer in regards to the mental aspect of the game, a sentiment that Waters also seemed to hold.

“It wasn’t until this past year, and especially this past summer, where he started believing he was good. Everybody knew he was good, but that’s kind of what the summer league does for you,” Waters said.

It was something that MJ himself even seemed to recognize.

“Summer ball does something to where coming back and playing real college baseball, it seems to take the pressure off. You say to yourself, ‘I’ve had all this experience, I’ve been there before. I played against great guys, I played with great guys and I played well and I played bad.’ And you just kind of realize that it’s a game, and it takes the pressure off and it’s really something that I wish I would have had earlier,” Metz said.

But, with two years of eligibility remaining after this season, he still has the opportunity to make use of this newfound knowledge.

“This kid has set himself up for a potentially massive season through his work this summer and I’ve been telling guys for months now that he is going to go off,” Schaub said.

He is difficult to miss, towering above most of his teammates, hurling baseball across the diamond, and smashing them even harder off of the scoreboard in left field. But, the real magic surrounding MJ Metz stems from his character, his infectious enthusiasm, the confidence he exudes and how significantly he reflects much of what the Trinity baseball program has become.