Chris Chaney ’19 and the Maryland Terrapins baseball team had just flown to Texas for a series against Texas Christian University when they got the news that their season had been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a freshman pitcher for the Terps, Chris only got to throw 3 2/3 promising innings out of the bullpen.
However, over the summer when much of the sports world was still shut down, Chris had the opportunity to play for the Nashua (NH) Silver Knights in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL). He had an impressive season as a relief pitcher during the eight-week, 39-game season, and the Knights earned the FCBL championship.
“They were pretty strict with COVID standards, but we were able to play a full season, so that was great because it allowed me to get back on the field,” Chris said. “It was an unbelievable experience for me. They had a lot of loyal fans. I hope to go back to play in that league again one day.”
Chris was home from Nashua for about a week and then went back to the University of Maryland for the fall semester. Maryland is testing its athletes three times per week, twice with rapid tests and once with a PCR test.
A Criminal Justice major, Chris said he didn’t always appreciate the rigorous schedule at Saint James, but it has helped him succeed in college.
“My grades are the best that they’ve ever been. Saint James definitely prepared me for the workload,”
he said. “I’ve really learned to be independent and get through different challenges unlike some other students I’ve seen.”
The Terps season started at the beginning of March and will run through the end of May. Chris said since arriving in college, he’s become a totally different pitcher. He used to rely on a four-seam fastball, taking the mound and trying to blow the ball past every hitter. Chris said he feels like he “actually learned how to pitch” and now has an effective change-up and a two-seam as well as better pitch location.
“I think the most important thing in college is that you can’t just be overpowering because you have to come to the reality that really no one is overpowering at this level,” he said. “That was honestly a hard thing for me because I was always a guy who just liked going out there and trying to throw the ball really hard, but you won’t get far just doing that.”
Chris said baseball is the only sport he’s ever taken seriously, starting out with t-ball around age five. He played Little League and then travel ball. While at Saint James, he also played on a team out of Manassas, VA, that played in recruiting showcases. “We traveled all over for that—Georgia, Florida, Louisiana. It was constant driving for my parents, and I can’t appreciate them more for that,” Chris said.
He found the college recruiting process to be exciting, with the opportunity to visit college campuses, meet coaches, and see a team’s facilities. Chris said there were about 15 schools he was considering, but the scholarship offer from Maryland was too good to pass up.
Chris had surgery during his fifth form year to repair a tendon in his arm. It was similar to Tommy John surgery, except instead of replacing the ligament they were able to repair it. Chris said this was a fairly new procedure (he believes he was around the 290th person in the country to undergo this surgery), where the ligament is wrapped in medical tape and then bolted back onto the bone with titanium bolts. The recovery time is about six months, or about half that of Tommy John surgery.
“You go into the surgery not knowing if you’re a candidate for a repair or for Tommy John. The doctor has to go in and decide what he’s going to give you while he’s in there and can feel the ligament to see if it’s sturdy enough to keep it,” Chris said. “They called my parents in the middle of the surgery to tell them what was going on. The first thing I asked when I woke up was what did I get. That was the scariest part for me.”
He came back the following year to join a core group of fellow sixth formers who led the Saints baseball team to their first-ever MAC championship in 2019. Chris went 6-2 with two saves and a 2.97 ERA and was named All-MAC and All- County.
“I’ve never been part of a team with so much chemistry and unity before,” Chris said. “We didn’t care what other teams thought of us, we just did our own thing and had fun with it. It brought us to a championship, and I think the most important thing is we were together through it all.”