|Linville Signs With Catamounts|
|Written by Mike Kelly|
|Tuesday, 15 November 2011 20:30|
Watauga High senior Max Linville has never been one to shy away from a challenge. Dating back to his younger days, when he actually brought a teddy bear with him to recreation-league games, or during his four-year stay with the Pioneers, Linville has always been one to over achieve.
He was always the one that was judged more about his size than the size of his heart. But despite the critics, and despite the odds, Linville has silence the naysayers time and time again. His latest triumph came Tuesday afternoon when he signed his National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Western Carolina University, a Division I school, a member of the Southern Conference, and one of Appalachian State's biggest rivals.
It was a fufilling moment for the guy, who put his teddy bear aside when he was called up to bat as a four-year-old playing tee-ball. He homered, rounded the bases, and went right back to hugging that teddy bear on the bench.
"I think I named him Yankee," said Linville, who's a huge New York Yankee fan. "He was my good luck charm. But this is a huge relief for me. Knowing I have somewhere to play next season is a huge load off my mind. Now, I can concentrate on my senior year."
But proving others wrong has become a habit, and it dates back to his pre-teen days in Florida. Linville was only 11-years-old, and he was playing for a traveling team. And because of his small stature, he was never given an honest chance to play.
"It was pretty frustrating," he said. "I was the smallest guy on the team, and they judged me more on my size. They felt because I was a little guy, I really couldn't contribute. But it made me more determined to play this game, and to play it well."
And play it well he has. Linville made a huge splash with the PIoneers as a sophomore. Batting in the lead-off spot, he belted six home runs, including two game winners that season. Last year as a junior, he batted .356 with a .586 slugging percentage and ten extra base hits.
"Max isn't really your typical lead-off hitter," said WHS coach Pete Hardee. "He doesn't take a lot of pitches. He's pretty aggressive up there, and he also does a great job destroying a pitcher's confidence. A lot of times, if a pitcher can get the lead-off man out, it gives him a lot of confidence against the next hitter. But Max always finds a way to get on, and to get us going offensively."
Linville made an huge impact with the Pioneers in the season opener his sophomore year. He belted a lead-off home run on the very first pitch he saw. That ignited the Pioneers, who went on to beat state-ranked North Davidson 4-1 down in Lexington.
"I've never been afraid to play this game," Linville said. "And I've never been afraid of failing. Sure, fear crosses your mind. You don't want to make a critical error, you don't want to strike out in the clutch. But you can't dwell on it. That's what makes this game so challenging.
"It's so mental. I use to play basketball. It's fun, but it's not as mentally challenging as baseball. In baseball, your chances are limited. You have to make the most of those opportunities. You can't dwell on things, either. You've got to move on and forget what happened. If you start dwelling on things, it will bring you and you're in a slump.."
And Linville is joining a WCU team that dropped in the standings big time last spring. The Catamounts, who were among the league powers in the SoCon, really struggled last year. They finished eight games under .500 (23-31-1), finished eighth in league play and barely made the SoCon tournament.
"They're rebuilding their program," Linville said. "I just want to make a contribution, I want to help them turn things around. They're looking at me as a utility player right now. I love playing the outfield, but I'll play where ever they want me to."
"Being versatile is so important, especially at the college level," Hardee said. "You have to show them how many positions you can play, and you have to be ready when you're called on. And it's a way to get on the field. Max can play second base, shortstop, heck he'd even play first (base) if they wanted him to. He's got a strong arm to play the outfield, and he has very good speed."
And Linville has finally hit the weight room this off-season. And the hard work is really paying off. He's squatting 400 pounds, and he's improved his speed in the 40-yard dash to 4.4 seconds.
"I never lifted weights before this season," he said. "It's made a difference. I can feel it. I'm so glad to get this out of the way. Now, I can focus on my senior year and finish strong."
Not bad for a guy, who once called a teddy bear his good luck charm.
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