Talking to Andrew Mercer. you get the distinct feeling the 21-year-old from Mount Pearl is having the time of his life.
And why not. The relief pitcher is coming off an NCAA Division II baseball championship with the University of Southern Indiana (USI) Screaming Eagles in May.
Since then, he’s moved on to the Geneva Red Wings of the New York Collegiate Baseball League, where he has posted a 1-0 record with two saves and an 1.42 ERA in 10 appearances. so far this summer
“I’ve spot-closed a few games and set up a few games,” he said of his role on the Red Wings.
He’s given up eight hits, fanned six and walked five over the 12.2 innings pitched for Geneva.
Back home for wedding this week, Mercer noted competition is “pretty similar” in both leagues and he’s feeling good about both experiences.
The New York Collegiate Baseball League is a summer development league. According to the league’s website, Major League Baseball funds a small portion of the NY league’s annual budget.
The league gives college players who have not yet signed a professional contract the opportunity to develop their skills at a higher level of play, gain experience with wood bats and be evaluated by scouts.
Mercer looks after his own living expenses on a college campus close to where he plays.
The league also uses wood bats as opposed to the aluminum bats used by most hitters in the NCAA, which Mercer said, with a laugh, “makes my job a lot easier.”
The teams play a grueling 46-game regular-season schedule in June to July.
“It’s crazy,” he said of the schedule. “We usually play at least six times a week, though we had a couple of days off recently.”
In the fall, Mercer will return to Southern Indiana for his senior year. The business administration student, who turns 22 in September, has drawn praise from his university coach.
“Andrew was a key part of this year’s national championship team,” Eagles’ head coach Tracy Archuleta told The Telegram.
“We used him primarily as our set-up guy out of the pen. He has great movement on his fastball and has a slider to keep the hitter off balance.”
“He’s a relentless worker and a great teammate. He understood his role and did everything we asked of him.
Mercer transferred to USI from Highland Community College in Kansas where he played two seasons, posting a 2-3 record as a freshman with a 5.40 ERA in 12 games and 40 innings pitched as a freshman. He had a 2-2 mark as a sophomore and a 6.08 ERA in six appearances and three starts.
The only Canadian on the team, Mercer got into Southern Indiana by e-mailing Eagles assistant coach Jeremy Kuester during the spring of 2013. He then drove down to Evansville in the summer and worked out for the team.
“We thought he could be a good (bull)pen guy and he proved to us that he is a great pen guy. I’m very proud of him as a baseball player and a person,” said Archuleta.
The 6-1, 185 pounder appeared in 21 games during his first season with the Eagles as a junior, posting a 3-1 record and a USI single-season record 1.01 ERA in 35.2 innings of work. He struck out a season-best five batters in a relief apparence in a regular-season game with Grand Valley State University.
Mercer said the calibre of baseball at the university level is much better than he’s ever come across.
The coaching is outstanding as well, he added.
Within a few weeks at USI, the Eagles’ pitching coach noticed a flaw in his delivery.
“He changed my arm angle completely,” sai Mercer. “He changed my mechanics up and down and because of that, I get a lot more movement on my pitches. My stuff’s sharper and I throw harder. Within the first couple of weeks. they saw the hitch I had in my delivery and got me to throw with lower trajectory.
“Now, I feel so much more comfortable and it’s paying off.”
Mercer said his personal goal next season is the same as the team’s goal, to win another championship.
“My team is great,” he said. “We all know our roles. We’ve got really good chemistry and we get along well together.
“It’s like a family…a brotherhood.”
He is obviously aware of the contribution he could make playing for Newfoundland in the national senior championship in St. John’s Aug. 20-24, but he hasn’t decided if he’ll compete in the tournament.
“I’m honestly not sure what my plans are at this point,” said Mercer, who is scheduled to return to school in mid-August.
Mercer played for the Knights in the St. John’s Baseball League last year, and was picked up by the Corner Brook Barons for the provincial senior baseball championship and then by the St. John’s Capitals, who represented the province at the national seniors in New Brunswick.
As far as his post-university baseball career is concerned, Mercer said some people have mentioned to him that it might be possible to play in an independent baseball league somewhere.
“There’s always the option of being drafted or signing as a free agent, but I’ll have to work harder for that,” Mercer said.
In any case, he said he wants to go as far as he can in the game.
“At this stage, I may as well go with it and, anyway, it always looks good on the résumé,” he added with a laugh.