Micah Cleveland knows he isn’t the biggest or strongest baseball player out there, but it really doesn’t matter.
The former Albany High pitcher has an opportunity to continue his playing career after committing to Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, earlier this week.
“About three years ago, I didn’t think I’d be anywhere near what I am today,” said Cleveland, who is 5 feet, nine inches tall and weighs 130 pounds, said. “(It’s) just hard work and dedication.”
Albany coach David Pittman said what Cleveland lacks in size, he makes up for with his tenacity.
“He’s not afraid to throw against anybody,” Pittman said, noting Cleveland went 3-1 this season, throwing 29 innings without allowing a walk or a hit batter as the Hornets went 5-5 in the abbreviated spring sports season. “The kid’s just competitive.”
“You’ve got a chance with somebody like that,” Pittman continued. “We used him every chance we could get him. We weren’t going to abuse him.”
Cleveland said he got on Southwestern College’s radar through his showcase team and a recruiting app which allowed different schools to get a look at his skills through video clips.
“There were a bunch of schools out there that I didn’t even know of,” Cleveland said. “They just contacted me, and I looked them up … I found one that I was interested in and went with it.”
Cleveland took a virtual tour of the campus and said Southwestern College set itself apart from other schools he was interested in attending.
“Their work ethic, the motivation that that give people – not just to throw people in there to pitch, but to get them bigger and better,” Cleveland said.
Cleveland started and worked in relief at Albany but said he’ll likely be used a reliever in college.
“(I’m) just accurate and know I’m going to hit the spot no matter what,” Cleveland said in describing his approach when pitching. “It doesn’t matter if (it’s) bases loaded and no outs or it’s the first inning.”
Pittman, who spent time as an assistant at Southeastern Louisiana during his career, said Cleveland has the tools to be successful at the next level, in part because of his mental approach on the mound.
“He’ll figure out that some of those umpires up there at that level will give him black and the ball,” Pittman said. “He’ll widen that plate up as much as that umpire will give him. He’s that capable. It’s a 17-inch wide (plate). If they give him 18 inches, he’s going to use that 18th inch, I can promise you.
“He’ll throw inside. He gets it. So what if a guy hits a ball foul 400 feet. You know what? It’s nothing but a strike. He gets it.”
“He had great high school career,” Pittman continued. “I couldn’t tell you what his (velocity) is. It didn’t matter. His velocity just didn’t matter, and he’s the kind of guy where you just didn’t hesitate (to use him).”
A one-way trip from Albany to Winfield, Kansas, is just over 800 miles, but Cleveland isn’t too worried. He’s just looking forward to the opportunity to keep playing.
“I’m pretty excited,” Cleveland said. “It’s a whole new thing. I can see new pitchers. We’re always used to seeing the same style of hitters around here. Everybody that I’ve played with for high school, I ended up playing against them in travel ball, so it will be a lot different going off.”
For Pittman, it’s about a little more than that.
“What it’s all about is going to play at the next level, and hopefully he gets a piece of paper – get that college degree, man,” Pittman said.
“I’m happy for him,” Pittman said.