written by: Alyssa Willetts
Baseball season is now in full swing at Oklahoma Wesleyan University. This season, the roster is featuring some familiar faces and a few new guys as well. For three of those newcomers, OKWU became their home at the start of the spring semester due to the closing of their beloved school.
The news that St. Gregory’s University was closing was sad and shocking, but for baseball players Nick McGrew, Austin Sojak, and Ryan Lujan-Leonard, their sport was the key to new open doors. Senior Nick McGrew, now an infielder for the Eagles, said, “Right after we were told school was shutting down, I started calling coaches to help talk to schools for me. Within hours of getting the news dropped on us, schools were calling a lot of us–actually, it was kind of crazy. A lot of schools reached out to me.” OKWU’s head baseball coach, Matthew Parker, was one of those that reached out to the guys, and he said that the recruiting process was unique in that “it happened so much quicker than expected, simply because of the time frame we were dealing with.”
Although the guys are in good hands now, senior outfielder for the Eagles, Ryan Lujan-Leonard, admits, “I will say, it was very nerve-racking because it is my senior year, and I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up.” Joining a program and university halfway through a school year is always tough and can take some time to adjust. Coach Parker strove to make that adjustment as easy as possible, and said this about his new guys: “They’ve really worked hard to fit into our program. They’ve definitely been an asset, as they are currently hitting 1, 3 and 4 in our lineup.”
Oklahoma Wesleyan University prides itself on having a strong community, and the baseball program has exemplified this in the best way by making their new teammates feel welcome. Coach Parker paved the way for this and said, “We’ve tried to show them that we care and that we are willing to do anything possible to help them succeed both on the field and in the classroom.” Former St. Gregory’s infielder, Nick McGrew, said, “The coaches and my teammates have been very welcoming. I know I made the right choice coming here. The team is a great group of guys. The energy and atmosphere we bring to the field is special.” Outfielder Ryan Lujan-Leonard also said, “The team and staff welcomed us with open arms. We are very blessed to be a part of this team.”
All three guys have had a lot of success in their baseball careers and bring fresh new talent and skill to the OKWU roster. Austin Sojka was a D1 NJCAA First Team All-American and South East Texas Batting Champ, Nick McGrew was 2nd team All-Conference, and Ryan Lujan-Leonard was 2nd team All-SAC and named to the Region 2 All-Tournament team. Nick McGrew had this to say about what he brings to the table: “I’m just trying to bring energy and consistency. It’s my last season playing, so I’m taking advantage of every day I have on the field.” Ryan Lujan-Leonard added this as well, “I think we (Nick, Austin, and I) have a lot of experience, we are all very competitive, and the OKWU baseball team already has that competitive edge–so we feel like we fit right in.”
Moving forward and further into the baseball season, the baseball Eagles’ goal as a team is to win out in the KCAC and qualify for the NAIA World Series where they hope to win a National Championship. Coach Parker said, “That is an incredibly tough task and takes a lot of work and even some luck. However, I do think that with these three, along with some of the other additions we’ve made, our team is definitely in a better position.”
Outfielder Ryan Lujan-Leonard believes everything happens for a reason, and although he is saddened by the unfortunate events of St. Gregory’s, he said, “I love it here at OKWU. It feels like home to me.”