MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Just a few days prior to the start of the 2020 high school baseball season, all sports in West Virginia were halted by the pandemic. Weeks later, spring sport seasons that never started were officially canceled.
And with that, Brayden McCallister’s time in a George Washington High School baseball uniform ended.
“What can you do? There was nothing any of us could do,” McCallister said. “Everything just shut down immediately. It was just gone, just like that.”
The American Legion baseball season was canceled as well, leaving baseball players without an organized league to compete in during the spring and summer months.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play because it just made me mad. But after a while, I was itching to get out there.”
McCallister and several players from the Kanawha Valley formed the 2020 Wildcat Select team. They compete against other teams throughout the Charleston-area, picking up as many games as they can find.
“We put together a travel team with local kids from around here. Some are going to play at the next level and some aren’t. We have games in Ashland but that’s about as far as we go. We are trying to stay local because of everything that is going around. There’s not a whole lot of tournaments. We are trying to find what we can find.”
Like many athletes preparing to play at the next level, McCallister has been working out on his own to gear up for the college game. He says ‘game reps’ are much different than ‘practice reps’ and the best learning can be done in competition.
“There are in-game situations that you just can’t really teach or practice. It is just something you have to learn by playing. That’s why we are doing this, just trying to get some games in before we all head out. We are just trying to get as much game experience as we can.”
In his junior season at GW in 2019, McCallister batted .384 with 48 hits, a pair of home runs, 34 runs scored and a dozen stolen bases. He was also named to the Class AAA all-state special honorable mention list. McCallister prides himself on his defensive play as a middle infielder.
“I like playing defense. If you are pitching and I am at shortstop, I think you are going to feel pretty comfortable. Hopefully, you are not going to feel nervous with me behind you. If there is a ball hit to me, I am going to make the play.”
McCallister built enough of a resume in his first three high school seasons to sign with the University of Charleston.
“My mom works there and has been working there for a while. I think it will be fun to get to see her everyday. And UC is great. They treat everyone like they are family. They are not just there for baseball.”
The Golden Eagles qualified for the NCAA Division II super regionals in 2019. UC was off to a 9-5 start to the season this spring under new head coach Robbie Britt, prior to the pandemic.
McCallister also caught 48 passes with 7 touchdown receptions for the GW football team this fall. The Patriots went 8-4 and advanced to the Class AAA quarterfinals.
(Taylor Kennedy contributed to this story)