NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Like most little kids worth their weight in Wiffle balls and Big League Chew gum, Bryson Bain wanted to play baseball in the big leagues.
Those dreams tempered a bit over the years, but not the Redbank Valley senior’s desire to do great things on the baseball diamond.
“I mean, when you’re a kid, it’s always, ‘Yeah, I want to go to the major leagues,’” Bain said. “But when you turn like 15 or 16, I wouldn’t say reality sets in, but you start to see what is available.”
For Bain, that was college baseball. He wanted to take his love for the game — and his ability to be a pitcher, not just a thrower — to the next level. He had interest from a good many schools from the start.
One place, however, was a constant throughout the recruiting process. One destination piqued Bain’s interest above all others.
Indiana (Pa.) University.
“There were a couple of schools at the beginning and a few came in at the end,” Bain said. “But (IUP) was special to me because they were the first ones to reach out, and I’ve been talking to them for four or five months now and the connection with the coach there — it was just unreal.”
So, it became an easy choice for Bain. He committed Thursday to continue his baseball and academic career at IUP.
“The campus really sells itself,” Bain said. “There’s not much you need to be told about it. You just see it and it’s kind of like, ‘Wow!’ And the coaches, I mean they’re just great people and they can develop me and get the program turned around.”
Steve Kline, who was a relief pitcher for 11 years in the major leagues for Cleveland, Montreal, St. Louis, Baltimore and San Francisco and was a minor league coach in the Giants organization after his retirement in 2007, was hired by IUP in June to take over a program that had bottomed out at 2-35 this spring.
His task is clear: rebuild the program.
Bain is eager to be a part of that.
“We don’t like to call it a rebuild there,” Bain said. “We like to call it a retooling. I want to go there and contribute as soon as I can, just get on the mound and pitch as much as I can.”
Bain enjoyed a strong spring for Redbank Valley, which went 14-5. The ace of the staff, Bain used a two- and four-seam fastball, curveball, changeup and slider to carve up hitters as a junior.
When in a pinch, he used his slider as an out-pitch.
This summer, his velocity has ticked up as well. During the season for Redbank, he was clocked in the low 80s. Now, he’s hitting the mid to upper 80s. As the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder gets even stronger, he hopes to add even more mph to his fastball.
Bain, though, knows better than anyone that pitching isn’t all about how much heat you can bring. He’s always focused on the finer points of his craft.
“You just have to be able to compete,” Bain said. “Having a mental edge helps.”
Redbank Valley baseball coach Craig Hibell said Bain has those intangibles to be a good pitcher at the next level. He also has the drive, the coach said.
“You know, he puts in a lot of time in the weight room,” Hibell said. “He’s not in there doing beach-body workouts. He’s in there doing the grinding work. He does the squats. He does the heavy lifting. The combination of his work ethic, which is top-notch, his ability to do the dirty work, and his athletic ability — all those things together makes him a pretty special athlete.”
Bain is also smart about pitching, Hibell said. Case in point was a game this season against Cranberry. Bain was touched up for three runs in the first inning, but made some adjustments and threw five-plus scoreless innings after that rocky beginning.
“His baseball IQ is definitely above average for any level of high school baseball,” Hibell said. “He really understands himself, understands situations and is very good at making adjustments. He doesn’t go through the motions. He does everything with a purpose.”
Bain also plays football and basketball at Redbank Valley.
He’s in a battle this year for the starting quarterback job for the Bulldogs, who are coming off one of the best seasons in school history in 2020 and have even bigger goals in 2021.
“It’s fun competing with your friends,” Bain said. “I’m having fun with the competition and just trying to make sure everybody gets better.”
Bain will enter his senior year now with a big weight off his shoulders. His goal from the start was to make his college decision in the summer months before school begins and three athletic seasons get underway.
“I can just relax now,” Bain said. “I can go into my senior year with the sports I do and not worry about where I’ll be. I can just have fun.
“The process was definitely awesome,” Bain added. “I never took it for granted because I know not every kid gets to do this.”