Athlete Spotlight: Michael Vasil ‘18 - BC High Baseball
By Nate Weitzer for Mass Prep Stars
BOSTON – An imposing presence on the mound that can easily intimidate batters with his sheer size and electric fastball, Mike Vasil is far more approachable off the field.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound ace of the Boston College High baseball team has dominated the opposition over the last season and a half. He first burst onto the scene with a clutch relief performance in a 2015 MIAA Division 1A “Super 8” game against St. John’s (Shrewsbury) and never looked back while posting a 1.37 ERA and allowing just 33 hits over 59.1 innings to guide the Eagles to their first Catholic Conference title in five years last season.
While BC High bowed out of the Super 8, that minor disappointment did little to affect the positive attitude of their stud righthander, who is thrilled to have earned a scholarship to his “dream school” in the University of Virginia.
“When I started the recruiting process I was thinking about what schools and agreed with my coach that Vanderbilt and Virginia were unrealistic,” Vasil recalled. “Virginia was a school that was at the top of my list. It was my number one choice and to be able to go to your dream school is something that’s really changed my life and approach to the game of baseball.”
At first, huge Division I collegiate programs such as Virginia weren’t interested unknown kid from Wellesley, but when Vasil took a trip down to Florida prior to his sophomore season with his club, Marucci Elite, he executed one of his old tricks by escaping a jam with runners on base.
Mike Vasil '18 - BC High Photo:Brendan C. Hall/ESPN
That performance impressed scouts from Oklahoma, UCLA and others, yet it was Vasil’s demeanor that really drew the attention of a baseball powerhouse in Virginia.
“Something that attracted the coaches to me was my competitive edge. After a double play, I sprinted off the mound and the pitching coach from Virginia told me that’s what kept him around,” said Vasil.
The following month, he took a trip to Virginia and accepted a four-year scholarship offer from the Cavaliers, who had just won their first national championship in 2015.
During the 2016 MIAA season, Vasil led a talented group of arms that included seniors Henry Ennen and Billy Roche, yet this year he’ll not only be asked to carry the pitching staff, but also to bat fifth for an Eagles team that’s facing several question marks on offense as well.
Just as he embraced the challenge of facing elite competition down in Florida to earn the attention of collegiate scouts, Vasil is accepting the task of hitting in the middle of the lineup.
“I liked [Vasil]’s swing and he has some power at his size and he hasn’t disappointed me so far this spring,” said BC High head coach Norm Walsh. “He’s got a high IQ for the game and he’s been absorbing stuff the last couple of years even though he hasn’t been in that position.”
Yet he remains most valuable to the Eagles when he’s on the mound and the junior continues to expand his versatile repertoire.
While Vasil’s four-seam fastball tops out around 90 miles per hour, he’s been forced to make adjustments and work tirelessly on incorporating off speed pitches to keep opposing hitters off balance.
“Towards the end of the [2016 season] some guys started sitting on my heater so developing a changeup opens a lot of opportunities,” explained Vasil.
“I’ve been working on it all year and it’s something you’ll definitely see in my arsenal this year, bearing in and heading down on lefties or throwing it in the dirt.”
Now he’s looking to lead BC High to a third appearance in the newly founded Super 8 Tournament, and is earning plenty of accolades for his play on the diamond, but Vasil originally came to BC High with another sport in mind.
He found a role with an Eagles basketball team by bringing his characteristic energy and relentless optimism off the bench. And while BC High finished the regular season 18-2 before getting stunned by Needham in the Division 1 South semifinals this year, Vasil certainly isn’t letting that affect his attitude heading into baseball season.
And along with his father and a pitching coach named John Miller out at his training facility in Framingham, Vasil credits Walsh for guiding him to his true sporting love.
“Basketball was really my first passion growing, and baseball was always there but I never really started growing into the game until I started working with coach Walsh and started understanding the game and baseball started to come more naturally to me,” Vasil said.
For Walsh, watching a strong-armed, talented kid come up through the ranks of BC High’s middle school was exciting and he was even more pleased once he got to know Vasil.
At the beginning of his freshman season, Vasil practiced with the varsity squad for a day and performed well.
Then Walsh turned to his junior varsity coach and told him, ”Don’t even think about it, because we needed [Vasil on varsity]. But the next day I couldn’t even find him at practice because he was at the JV meeting. The fact that he didn’t make any assumptions said a lot.”
“He’s an extremely humble kid, he’s very coachable, but at the same he sets the tone for us when he’s on the mound.”
In Vasil’s biggest appearance as a freshman during the 2015 Super 8, he came out of the bullpen with runners on in a 3-1 game and escaped a jam in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Afterwards, he let out a vigorous yell to announce the importance of the moment, and laughs when he recalled how he watched the clip of that final strikeout about 100 times as a freshman.
“I do like getting fired up and playing with intensity,” said Vasil. “I think it makes the game more fun to watch, baseball is a slow game but it can be fun if someone brings some electricity to the mound.”
At the same time, he’s learning how to balance his emotions now that he’s an upperclassman and the unquestioned leader of a relatively inexperienced starting staff that will look to incorporate relievers Gavin Reilly and Brendan Mignone this season.
“I’ve definitely learned how to balance emotion with a calm attitude,” Vasil confirmed. “I know the guys need someone to look to, and being calm in tough situations on the mound is huge. Everyone sees the pitcher’s body language and if you stay calm, everyone else is calm.”
That’s clearly an approach that he’s picked up from his experienced coach in Walsh, who has won over 500 games as the coach of BC High and pitched at Harvard back in the 1970s.
“You want to be competitive and I understand that, but at some point you have to reign that in and keep your focus,” Walsh said about the development of his young ace. “You have to act like you’ve been there before. When something good happens there’s no need to be celebratory about it, because you want to give the impression that you’re in charge.”
Now that he’s able to throw three pitches for strikes and elicit swings and misses whenever his team needs it, Vasil is certainly in charge, and perhaps that’s the reason for his consistent smile.
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