A pair of lefties heading to Division I programs
NEW RIEGEL — Jamie Lininger, New Riegel’s athletic director, had a speech prepared Tuesday.
Lininger addressed an assembly of high school students, and in his remarks, tried to explain to them the unlikelihood of what had occurred.
Two athletes, from the same class, on the same high school baseball team. Both left-handed pitchers. Both about to sign letters of intents to play at Division I colleges.
“Now, since I’m a math person… I’m always looking at statistics and numbers,” Lininger said. “If you stop and think what an accomplishment this is …”
It is pretty impressive.New Riegel senior Michael Kirian has signed to play baseball at Louisville. His teammate and friend, Alex Theis, signed to join Ohio State.
“Right now, the main thing going through my mind is how excited I am to officially be signed and be a part of the University of Louisville baseball program,” Kirian said.
“I’m at a little bit of a loss for words right now,” Theis said. “It’s an exciting moment. Not a lot of people get to do this, and to do this with my best friend — next to him at the same time — is a big honor to me.”
Both players have endured challenges to get to this point. Each missed their junior seasons after suffering ACL tears. Both have recovered, although Theis is not expected to pitch this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August. The pair helped New Riegel win a district title in 2015.
For Kirian, deciding on Louisville came after making several visits to the campus.
“The main thing that made me choose it was I had a connection with the coaches,” Kirian said. “I visited the campus several times before I committed, and I loved being down there, I loved their facilities, their campus, their academics. I loved everything about it.”
Kirian said he didn’t get too down after his injury last year.
“I think I’ve been able to hang in there, just knowing it was a minor setback,” he said. “It was something that was not career-ending, so it was something I tried to be positive through.”
For Theis, he said the signing with Ohio State is a dream come true.
“It’s just been a dream to be a Buckeye my whole life,” Theis said. “It’s my passion, just something that drives me.
“It is very special to me. It’s every baseball player’s dream,” he said. “It’s just awesome. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Theis said he got plenty of support when he was hurt, which strengthened his resolve.
“I was coming back; I’m coming back 100 percent,” he said. “No worries about Ohio State. No worries about me.”
New Riegel baseball coach Greg Hughes said Kirian and Theis have done something remarkable.
“To be in the same class, in a school like New Riegel to play D-I ball, pretty cool,” he said. “They’ve been through a lot, and they’ve worked through it.”
Kirian said it was a special moment to sign a letter of intent at the same time his teammate did.
“It’s a true blessing,” he said. “Me and Alex have been playing together as long as I can remember, back in kindergarten. Me and him have played on just about every same team. So we’re always together, so it’s a huge honor.”