A member of the Miami Trace High School graduating class of 2016, Drew Stevens has his future spread out before him like an open road.
The beginning of that road will take him to Hiram College where he will further his education and his athletic career, playing baseball for the Terriers. Hiram’s athletics are NCAA, Division III and they are a member of the North Coast Athletic Conference, which includes, among other schools, Kenyon, Oberlin, Ohio Wesleyan, Wittenberg.
Hiram is located nearly halfway between Cleveland and Youngstown in northeastern Ohio.
Stevens signed a letter of intent Thursday evening in the library of his Alma mater. He was joined by his father, Shawn, head baseball coach Rob Smith, assistant coach Matt Platt and the school’s athletic director, Aaron Hammond.
For the Panthers, Stevens was their everyday first baseman and pitched during some non-league games during the 2016 season.
Stevens will play fall baseball for Hiram, which will potentially help determine his playing status for the spring of 2017.
Hiram contacted Stevens and let him know they were interested in having him come up for a visit.
“I met their coaches and they are great people,” Stevens said. “They stayed in contact with me, really wanting me to come. I just really loved the coaches and I wanted to go up there and play. I love baseball.”
There could be a chance for Stevens to play sooner, rather than later, for Hiram.
“They have a lot of needs at the pitching position,” Stevens said. “They offered me a roster spot and what I can do with it will decide what my playing time is. I plan on working hard and hopefully getting a lot of playing time.”
Short of becoming a professional ballplayer, Stevens’ love of the game could grow into a lifelong passion.
“I’d love to be a teacher and a coach,” Stevens said. “I coach now, eight and 10-year-olds at Mt. Sterling. I’m an assistant coach. I love it. There’s something about coaching, I just love it.
“I’d want to teach high school,” Stevens said. “Maybe even go into strength and conditioning, helping kids get better and stronger.”
Stevens enjoyed his time at Miami Trace.
“I loved it here,” Stevens said. “My sophomore year, Coach (Rob) Smith became our coach. Ours was the first class he worked with. He worked with us on the fundamentals. My junior year, it didn’t look like I was going to get to play a lot. I ended up being a role player, pitching in non-league games. Coach (Matt) Platt really helped me with my mechanics. I gained a lot more velocity. I was able to get hitters out spotting my fastball.
“I loved coach Platt’s strength and conditioning class. I loved messing with him every single day,” Stevens said with a laugh.
Stevens played two years on the j-v team and two years on the varsity team at Miami Trace.
“I really loved the coaching staff,” Stevens said. “Coach (Lee) Layman, coach (Brian) Yeazel, they were great. I loved talking with them. Coach Smith, he really helped us grow. Not just me, but (fellow seniors) Trevon Burnside and Kody Scott. We learned a lot of lessons, a lot of life lessons as coach would say.”
One of the high school highlights for Stevens was the Panthers winning a share of the SCOL title in 2015.
Away from the sports arena, Stevens said a couple of the classes he enjoyed at Miami Trace included math and English.
“Apparently, I’m pretty good at writing papers and speaking in front of people,” Stevens said. “So, the speech class was probably my favorite. Math was pretty easy for me, too. Chris Miller is a pretty good teacher.”
“Drew is just a great young man,” coach Smith said. “He’s a kid who really worked hard to get where he is now. Drew has undergone a physical transformation to become a good ballplayer; not that he didn’t have the skills before. That made a big difference. It started last year. Drew started getting in really good shape. That’s why I think his potential in college is unlimited, because he’s just getting into that body and now, the strength is going to come along with it.
“He had a great senior year,” Smith said. “Last year he was a good role player for us. Last year as a pitcher, he won four or five games. This year, the weather took away some of his non-league pitching chances. The way he played first base, I didn’t want to take him off first base anyway.
“He had a very good year at the plate,” Smith said. “He ended up batting around .300. He was way up above that until the last two or three games. His average was up around .380.”
What about taking his game to the next level?
“It doesn’t matter what level of baseball you go to,” Smith said. “Coach Platt and I talk about it all the time. The difference between a small college and a big college a lot of times might be foot speed, or scouts not getting to see you in the summertime. You could be a star on your team at Miami Trace. Everybody on a college team was a star on their high school team.
“It’s the ones that understand that and go to the next level and don’t get frustrated at first,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a process. Very rarely a player gets to go right in and start on day one. You have to work for your spot when you get there.
“Drew’s work ethic is going to be the key,” Smith said.
Stevens is the son of Shawn and Deanna Stevens. He has one sister, Rachelle.
Reach Chris Hoppes at 740-335-3611, ext. 1104, or on Twitter @choppes1