In Leyton Pinckney’s own words, baseball has “changed everything about my life. I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
The good news is he won’t have to.
The Veterans High School student-athlete signed a baseball scholarship for Mercer University Thursday at the high school.
“I talked to a lot of schools,” he said. “Everybody in Georgia. But then in my visits and talking with Coach (Craig) Gibson and Coach (Brent) Shade, and (knowing) their ability to develop players … I found that to be really intriguing.
“I’m just very blessed I get an opportunity to go there and play. They’ve had a lot of success over the years … best in Georgia.
“So, I just want to do my part and contribute.” (Following his senior year at Veterans, where he’ll continue to be the “anchor in the lineup,” Head Coach David Coffey said.) Plus, added this past season’s Warhawks’ quarterback (but no football at Mercer, he said – solely baseball) it’s close to home so the family can come and watch him play, and, “They hit a lot of homeruns and I like that.”
Homeruns may not actually be his forte right now – could very well play into that “ability to develop players” remark – but defense definitely is. In fact, he said, that’s really what stood out about him to the Bears’ coaches.
“One thing, a common theme,” he said, referring to his primary position at catcher, “was they liked the way I receive the pitches. They like the way I ‘present the pitch,’ really defensively my catching ability is really what they liked about me. And the bat was a plus.”
He continued: “But for me, my hands … especially the way I stop the baseball, receive the curveball … just frame pitches well. And block pitches. My arm strength behind the plate.
“So really, defensively is where they were most excited about me.”
Another bit of good news, he said, was the fact it’s only he and one other player currently in line to play that position. And, he said, the other player also plays third. “That means I’ve got a really good chance to play a lot as a freshman,” he said. “So, it’s a bigger responsibility, but very appealing to me. I’m really excited to go and compete and play right away.”
And graduate with a degree in sports business, he said, the long-term plan to become a lawyer and an agent.
No doubt he’s come a long way since age 4, first stepping out on the field and finding: “I absolutely hated baseball,” he laughed. “I liked the post-game snack, that’s about all I liked about it.” He elaborated with more chuckles: “Just the sun, it was boring to me, whatever.”
Two years later – taking the next year off – “something clicked. I loved it. Making the 8-year-old All-Star team (and) from there on I just progressed and progressed (with the trophies/awards/accolades to prove it). I just loved it.”
The rest, he might have added, is history … history that’s still being written.