Favorite athlete: Allen Iverson
Favorite team: Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: My junior year when we won our league title.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Nothing super embarrassing has happened to me while playing, but it would either be dropping a routine pop-up or striking out really bad.
Music on mobile device: Mostly rap.
Future plans: Attend Binghamton University and play baseball there.
Words to live by: “Play every game like it’s the last.”
One goal before you turn 30: Travel to different countries around the world
One thing people don’t know about me: I like to fish
By Ed Morrone
Following last season’s dramatic, come-from-behind victory over Souderton in the District One quarterfinals, Chris Manero was already salivating at the prospect of coaching Kevin Reilly in his senior baseball campaign.
Sadly, subsisting on the memories will have to suffice for Manero and the Plymouth Whitemarsh baseball program. With no spring 2020 season coming, those memories are all they’ve got left.
Oh, but what great ones they are.
Reilly, a senior catcher for the Colonials, was still a junior in the final week of May during the 2019 season when he produced the biggest hit of his life. PW trailed Souderton 3-1 in the sixth inning of that quarterfinal contest, with a berth to the state tournament on the line. Reilly strode to the plate with a runner on and quickly fell behind 0-2 before working the count back to full. Then, pandemonium ensued in the form of a majestic, game-tying home run to left-center; the Colonials would go on to defeat the eventual state champion Indians in the seventh. It was a career high point for Reilly, the three-year varsity starter behind the plate who finished last season with a .403 batting average to go with a .506 on-base percentage.
“It was one of the best at bats I’ve ever seen, and the most exciting singular hit that I’ve ever been on the field for,” Manero recalled. “Kevin was named a captain for his senior season and I was really looking forward to him having his best season of all four. These guys put in so much work all year for one reason: to see how good they can be in the spring. Kevin put that work in for his whole life to get to his senior year.”
Unfortunately, that will not come to pass, as the coronavirus pandemic has wiped out spring seasons for deserving seniors like Reilly all over the area, state and country. Like Manero, Reilly will have to get by on what he was able to accomplish in three seasons, which in fact was quite a bit.
PW won just three league games Reilly’s freshman season, but he entrenched himself as a starter right away while hitting .297. His average dipped to .232 as a sophomore, but by then he was an elite defensive catcher, adept in both game awareness and limiting the run game in helping the Colonials back to the playoffs. Last season, PW won 11 SOL American games, good for the team’s first league title since 2005 (shared) and first outright crown since 1996.
“It’s definitely disappointing, because we wanted to go out there and defend our title and possibly more,” Reilly said. “Having no chance left to play high school baseball, it sucks, but it’s also a very serious time and everyone else is in the same position as us. We can grieve, but we have to keep moving on with life.”
Even if Reilly is a levelheaded, cool customer who doesn’t let much rattle him, Manero told an anecdote that likely made the cancelation of Reilly’s senior season even harder to swallow. After finishing eighth grade at Colonial Middle School, Reilly enrolled at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, where he repeated eighth grade there before deciding to return to PW. Fast forward to November 2019, the PIAA ruled Reilly ineligible for his senior season, with the main sticking point being whether or not Reilly’s second eighth grade season at SCH should count against his high school eligibility.
Though Reilly lost the initial ruling, he and his parents appealed the decision, and a Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas judge ruled in Reilly’s favor. So, in effect, Reilly has had his senior baseball season ripped away from him not once but twice in the span of a couple of months.
“Kevin and his family had to fight for this last year,” Manero said. “Through all of that, the ruling came out in his favor, and he still won’t get to play.”
“It was definitely a little weird, going through that and then having my season canceled again,” Reilly added. “It’s disappointing, but like I said, it happened to everybody else too, not just me.”
Thankfully for Reilly, this story does still have a happy ending, despite the fact that he and his fellow seniors were robbed of the chance to defend their league crown. He may not play baseball this year, but he will again, as Reilly is bound for Binghamton University to continue his playing career.
He was an enormously attractive recruit for Division-I programs for a couple of reasons. First, while rare for freshmen catchers to start immediately, Reilly has three years of starting varsity experience under his belt, so he is a veteran at manning the backstop despite not playing as a senior. Secondly, Reilly had his most polished offensive year as a junior, playing with increased confidence in part due to the fact that he got bigger and stronger in the weight room.
Finally, he continued to get better behind the plate, teaming with PW’s southpaw-heavy rotation to make the opposition’s run game virtually nonexistent. If the Colonials were giving up runs, they weren’t cheap ones due to errors, wild pitches, passed balls and stolen bases.
“Kevin has proven in his time here that he is good at handling pitchers,” Manero said. “He helped guys who don’t throw the hardest locate their pitches, and by junior year we let him call his own game. We put that on him, and he was able and smart enough to do it.
“Kevin also did an outstanding job of making guys not want to run. One of the biggest reasons for our success last year was our lefty pitchers keeping guys close, as well as a catcher that people didn’t want to run on. Kevin controlled the run game and kept guys base to base as much as possible.”
That, plus Reilly’s unflappable demeanor tells Manero everything he needs to know about Reilly’s ability to become an impact player at Binghamton.
“The game awareness just comes from playing all the time and being a fan of the game my entire life,” Reilly said. “I like getting to know the pitchers because they are a big part of the team’s success. I think the coaches gave me the ability to call my own game because they knew I would do a good job, having that strong relationship with my pitchers. Plus, I would usually agree with what our pitching coach would call anyway before I was calling my own games, so it’s worked out well most of the time.”
Now that his high school career is officially over, the biggest part of Reilly’s legacy is probably the fact that he came back to PW to begin with. The PW program was stuck in the mud spinning its wheels when Reilly returned to town from his one-year detour at SCH Academy, and his calming presence helped turn things around really quick.
“Going to private school and then coming back sent a message,” Manero said. “Not only about our program, but also how good our school is, how good the athletics and facilities are. Kevin chose PW as the school he wanted to go to. That helped us say to a lot of kids, ‘Why go anywhere else?’ He did that, and it was part of what made us better.
“Sometimes when a program isn’t great, kids go somewhere else to win championships; Kevin wanted to come back here and make this team a champion. That’s a powerful message. It’s not all on him, but he’s been here through all of it: the improvement, a return to the playoffs, a league title, states … he made the program better in every single equation.”
For his part, Reilly said it was nothing against SCH Academy, a school he enjoyed during his one year there. Quite simply, he just missed his friends whom he had grown up with since kindergarten, and being away from that for one year made Reilly realize what he already had was pretty special in its own right.
Now, he’s getting set to leave home again, this time for upstate New York. Luckily, Reilly has a batting cage in his backyard at home, as well as a willing throwing partner in his dad, so he’s been able to stay sharp despite the fact that he hasn’t played a game since last year.
As far as what he wants to study, Reilly said he’s still undecided but may lean toward economics. In his spare time when he’s not playing baseball, he loves the outdoors, and is particularly fond of fishing, even if he’s not very good at it.
“It’s satisfying to catch a fish,” the catcher said. “But I get deterred pretty easily. If I don’t catch one in an hour, then I’m out of there.”
All in all, Reilly is bummed like every other spring athlete that has been relegated to the sidelines in these strange times, but true to his nature, he’s not letting it get him down. And why should he? In three years, Reilly was a catalyst in turning around PW’s baseball program, and he can rest easily at night knowing he left PW’s baseball team better than when he found it.
“Baseball is a game of failure,” he said. “If you fail seven out of ten times, you’re still going to the Hall of Fame. Being a catcher has developed me into a stronger, confident person. You have to be. If you’re weak, you’ll get frustrated too easily and won’t last.
“I was looking forward to getting out there and defending our title. We wanted to improve ourselves and make a run in states. Being together every day with my team and my friends, going out and winning games, it’s the best feeling, and definitely the one I will miss the most.”
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