Chances are, anyone who stopped by the Loudon High School baseball field for a game over the summer saw former Redskins catcher Dain McNabb swinging away in the batting cages.
“Last year wasn't my best year offensively,” he said. “As a catcher, I'm there for my defense and anything offensively is kind of a bonus.
“I took off last summer and all I did was work out and get my body in the best shape I could get in,” McNabb said. “The more hitting I do and more workouts, I feel that in the spring it's going to pay off and I'm going to have a good senior year.”
The work must have showed. After the first day of workouts when he returned to Middle Tennessee State University, McNabb found out he would be a captain for the Blue Raiders and for the team's Omaha Challenge, a team-building fitness program.
“Right now we're in our last day of workouts,” McNabb said Thursday afternoon. “As a team we've worked really, really, really hard this year. Workouts have been really strenuous and they've really pushed us. I feel like we're more prepared this year than any of the other four years I've been here.” McNabb hopes to make his senior campaign with the Blue Raiders as memorable as the one he had with the Redskins, when he batted .526 with 45 RBI, was named First Team All-State and set a school record by throwing out 61 runners attempting to steal.
Defense is where McNabb excels. As a junior, he finished with a .985 fielding percentage and caught 17 runners stealing. While he wants to improve his offense — he went 3-3 with three RBI and a two-run homer in the team's final fall scrimmage — his goal as a senior is to play great defense and manage a senior-heavy pitching staff. The Blue Raiders have 15 seniors on the roster, eight of whom are pitchers.
“I feel that this year, having everybody back and having only five new guys, the team has kind of become a family,” McNabb said. “The new guys, they've come in, they've mixed well. It's going to be a really fun and exciting season I think.”
Paul Mittura, a junior pitcher, returns with a team-best 1.98 ERA and anchors the bullpen. Sophomore Jonathan Frebis brings back a 3.65 ERA and the team's best win-loss record at 6-3.
“I feel our pitching staff has grown as a whole, “ McNabb said. “I feel like it's going to be really, really positive in the spring. I feel like our pitching staff, everybody is battling for a spot and it's been really, really competitive and it's been really good.”
McNabb credits the team's new pitching coach, Skylar Meade, with the improvements. Meade is just one of the new coaches on a staff led by new head coach Jim McGuire, who replaces longtime Blue Raiders coach Steve Peterson. McGuire had been an assistant coach with the program for the past eight years and McNabb said the transition has been smooth and positive.
With the 2013 season approaching, McNabb said he is excited for the opportunity to be on the team and “show the young guys what MTSU baseball is all about.”
“The experience is there; the knowledge is there,” he said. “Guys just have to produce.”
McNabb will kick off his senior campaign with the Blue Raiders when the team hosts Ball State for a three-game series Feb. 15-17.