Alaska is more synonymous with glaciers than baseball, but Lehigh catcher Matt McBride wouldn’t be embarking on a pro baseball career without his visit there last summer.
McBride, a product of nearby Bethlehem Liberty High School, started every game as a freshman for Lehigh in 2004 and batted .366. As a sophomore, McBride admits he tried a bit too hard and saw his batting average plummet to .258.
So, when the Mat-Su Miners of the Alaska Summer Baseball League needed a catcher, McBride jumped at the chance. And it paid huge dividends as the 6-foot-3, 205-pound McBride regained his hitting stroke last summer. “It was a great experience,” says McBride. “I played with and against great college players in an absolutely beautiful setting. I came back really confident.”
It showed. With big league scouts at every game, McBride led the Patriot League in HRs (12), RBIs (61), batting average (.417), slugging percentage (.678) and hits (88) as a junior. That production powered Lehigh to its first NCAA tourney berth and made McBride a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award (given to the nation’s best college catcher).
McBride’s combination of size, catching skills and power stroke also vaulted the Lehigh’s now-former catcher into a first-day selection in Major League Baseball draft on June 6, the first Patriot League player ever picked that high. McBride was chosen with the 75th overall selection by the Cleveland Indians and is already playing some catcher and also serving as a designated hitter for the Mahoning Valley (Ohio) Scrappers, a Class-A affiliate in the Indians’ minor league system.
“Matt’s the best player I’ve ever coached,” says Lehigh coach Sean Leary. “With his ability and work ethic, he’ll be a great pro.”
Lehigh Alumni Bulletin Online