The switch-hitting junior third baseman and captain leads the Gators’ baseball team in every offensive category, batting .446 with 26 RBI’s, 25 runs scored, 10 doubles and only five strikeouts in 92 plate appearances as of May 14. The Lehigh University commit was the winning pitcher in the Gators’ first championship as a freshman, and has been a Carpenter Cup team member since his freshman year.
Q: What sparked your original interest in switch-hitting? What did you find to be the greatest challenge in learning to become a switch-hitter?
A: When I started hitting I was a natural righty. I would go to every one of my brother’s high school baseball games at Bonner and when I was 9 years old, and I wanted to hit like him, so I started to practice hitting off a tee lefty. I would spend hours practicing, learning to hit lefty from my brother and righty from my dad. The biggest challenge with switch hitting is that sometimes I will go through stretches of five or six games without facing a lefty pitcher, so I need to see a few pitches to get zoned back in from the right side of the plate.
Q: You usually bat toward the top of the lineup. Does your batting approach change when you are moved up or down in the lineup order?
A: My approach changes every at bat, and even sometime pitch to pitch. I’m always trying to do my job, whether that is hit a sac fly with a man on third, hit it to the right side to move a runner over, or take a few pitches to work a deep count when leading off an inning. Early in an at bat, I usually look for a fastball to drive into a gap, but when behind in a count, I try to stay alive and spoil the pitcher’s off speed pitch, waiting for a mistake to capitalize.
Q: Has third base always been your primary position? What do you like best about playing third base?
A: I played shortstop and first base in Little League, and had never played an inning of third base until 13 year old Legion baseball. My favorite part about playing third base is that most balls are hit hard, and if it is not within two quick steps, it usually end up as a diving play. There’s no better feeling than taking a double down the line away from a hitter and helping out your pitcher.
Q: Tell us a little about your experience in the Carpenter Cup – what has been your most vivid memory of your Carpenter Cup experience?
A: Carpenter Cup the last two years has been a blast. It is humbling to see how many talented baseball players there are in the tri-state area. Playing in FDR Park and teaming up with the top players in the area for a chance to play in Citizens Bank Park is an experience I look forward to again in the future.
Q: You were the winning pitcher in Shipley’s first championship as a freshman – tell us a little about that experience, and your strongest memory of that game.
A: I was confident coming into the start because I was pitching well recently, throwing a complete game one-hitter and earning a save in my previous two outings. However, the day got off to a rocky start as I had to go through my warm up twice because of a one-hour rain delay, then gave up two runs in the first inning. I was confident in my offense to get us back in the game, so i knew I had to fight back. The whole game was almost a blur as the next thing I knew, I gave up only one more run the rest of the game, and I was at the bottom of a dog pile after throwing a complete game in a 7-3 win.
Q: What do you think is the strongest part of your game? What part of your game are you working on the most currently?
A: The strongest part of my game is my hitting. Hitting is what I spend the most of my time on during practice. Waiting back and driving the ball opposite field is what I have worked on the hardest this season. Being able to hit to all fields has made teams play me straight up, and has opened up gaps in the outfield, and that is when my hitting has thrived this season.
Q: Who is your favorite baseball player, and why?
A: My favorite baseball player is Dustin Pedroia. He plays for my favorite team, the Red Sox, and and he is one of the hardest working players ever. He plays every game like it is his last, giving 110 percent on every play, which is something I try to emulate.
Q: Who have been your biggest baseball mentors, and what was the most important thing each of them taught you?
A: Some of my biggest mentors throughout my life has been my dad, John Morris, and [Shipley baseball head coach] Bryan Bendowski. My dad has always been the man I look up to in baseball and in life. John Morris was my travel team coach, and from a young age taught me the correct way to play baseball, and taught me what it really means to love the game. Bryan Bendowski recruited me to Shipley, and made me feel like part of a family. The lessons he has taught me throughout my time at Shipley will go far beyond the baseball field.
Q: What is your favorite baseball park, and why?
A: My favorite baseball park is Fenway Park. It is the home field of my favorite team, and has so much history built into it. Also, it has the most interesting outfield layout, with the Green Monster in left field, and Pesky Pole in right field.
Q: Tell us a little about your pre-game preparation the day of a game.
A: Before each game I try to just stay relaxed no matter who, where, or what we are playing for. Before the game I just treat it like I am getting ready for practice, joking with teammates to stay loose. I like to get out to the field early so I have enough time to stretch. The only pregame ritual I have is before each game I jog to center field with the team, touch the Ezra Keizer memorial plaque, and jog back to right field to begin stretching. My routine starts in the cages and in warm ups, that’s where I lock in. During BP, I always work on taking pitches the other way, first off a tee, then in the cage, as pulling the ball in games comes naturally for me.
Q: You wear uniform jersey No. 3 for Shipley. Is there a reason you picked that number – does it have any significance to you?
A: My brother is a huge role model on the field for me, and growing up watching him play in high school, he wore No. 3. Just like learning to hit left handed, wearing No. 3 was just another way I chose to emulate him.
Q: What attracted you to Lehigh University? What other schools were in the running?
A: I was interested in many of the Patriot League schools because they offer the opportunity to get a great education, while also being able to play competitive baseball. After my first visit, I fell in love with Lehigh’s campus, the team, and the coaching staff. I knew if I were to play baseball in college, staying close to home was very important to me. The only reason I have the skills to play college baseball is because of the countless hours my father has put into working with me. He has only missed a handful of games my entire life traveling up and down the East Coast, and being close enough for him to watch me play in college is a way for me to show him my appreciation.
Q: Do you participate in any other extracurricular activities at Shipley other than baseball? What sparked your interest in these other activities?
A: Outside of baseball, I love to fish and golf. My dad has taught me how to do both of these, and on off days from baseball, you will most likely find my dad and I fishing or out on a golf course.
Fun facts – Gerard Sweeney
Favorite book: The Great Gatsby.
Favorite author: F. Scott. Fitzgerald.
Favorite TV show: E60.
Favorite movie: Money Ball.
Favorite athlete: Dustin Pedroia.
Favorite pre-game pump-up song: 502 Come up, by Bryson Tiller.
Favorite team: Boston Red Sox.
Favorite place to visit: Pocono Mountains.
Favorite pre-game meal: Naked fruit smoothies.
Favorite color: Red.
Person I most admire: “Dustin Pedroia, he plays every game like it’s his last.”
Family members: parents Gerard Sr. and Traceyann, brother Shane (27), sister Caseyann (20), dogs Diesel and Dobby.
(To be selected as Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by his coach.)