Big things often come in small packages. One of the big things in the Dominion District right now is Nick Connor, senior shortstop and pitcher for the L.C. Bird Skyhawks. Listed at 5’10” and 170 pounds, he’s not the “ideal size” for a pitcher but possesses both a heavy bat and a strong arm, and is accomplishing some things on the diamond this season in the face of adversity.
Connor has contributed to Bird’s 7-4 record (3-2 district) with a big bat despite his size – he has socked four home runs; and his arm, his weapon, fires fastballs for Bird at 94 mph.
“He’s a smaller guy but what people don’t realize is that he’s also really strong,” said L.C. Bird head coach Tony Nicely. “He’s big into weightlifting, and that helps his arm strength,” he continued. “Nick lifts a lot, and it also helps his hitting; when he hits the ball, he hits it very hard.”
The standout also possesses a quick set of wheels, giving him great range at shortstop and enables him to be a game changer offensively.
“With the way Nick runs,” said Nicely, “if he can get on first base, he’s a good bet to get to second. He’s got exceptional speed.”
With his repertoire of strengths on the ball field, Connor is playing a bit harder this season for his father who suddenly passed away last October at the age of 44. “My dad was my biggest fan,” he said. “He was at every game and he always told me that I had a future with baseball. I plan on proving him right.”
Connor has garnered interest from several major schools, including Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia Commonwealth. He admits that while his play on the field has been stellar, the classroom, at times, is a work in progress. His brother Brad, a 2009 graduate and athlete, has been a big force in giving him the motivation he needs in that area.
“I’ve been working very hard this year,” said Connor. “I probably didn’t take my earlier years in school as seriously as I should. I’m working hard to impress these schools.”
According to Nicely, Connor has an equal chance to pitch at the next level, play shortstop, or perhaps make a great outfielder due to his speed. His aggressive style of play on the diamond can often cause teams to look out for him.
“He’s an aggressive kid, and that could be a good thing in baseball,” said Nicely. “Sometimes that can hurt you, but most times it’s a big help.”
Connor, lauded for his work ethic and being coachable on the field and in practice, has been looking at several junior colleges – a couple in North Carolina are possible landing places for him next fall – and plans to transfer to a four-year school or to get drafted to play professionally.
“This is my third year coaching Nick,” said Nicely. “He’s just as athletic as anyone on the field, and you come to him with a coaching concern and let him know about it. That’s the last time you’ll have to address that.”
With the passing of his father, according to Nicely, Nick is focusing more on life at the moment than baseball.
“Right now he’s leaving it all on the field,” Nicely stated. “I have all the admiration and love for Nick in the world. He’s trying to do all the right things, but being a young guy I can imagine, with his situation, it’s pretty difficult.”
Connor and the Skyhawks will continue to drive towards the Dominion District title after spring break, with a contest on April 26th against district rival and post-season contender Cosby. The contest will be at Cosby, the first pitch at 4:30 p.m. Cosby currently leads the Dominion District.