catamountATHLETICS

MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS

A job in the minor leagues enables a former WCU pitcher to see much of America

By DANNY HIRT ’73

Former Western Carolina pitcher Greg Holland has two families to thank for his career in professional baseball – his family at home that introduced him to the game, and his on-campus family that nurtured his skills. Holland, of Marion, said he discovered his interest in America’s pastime when he was young. “My dad always played weekend softball,” he said, adding that he and his brother Chase tagged along for many of those games. “And I got into it as soon as possible.”

Greg Holland

Kansas City Royals selection Greg Holland pauses on the field
prior to a recent Northwest Arkansas Naturals game – just
before being promoted to Omaha, Neb.

After receiving no significant offers to play elsewhere, Holland decided to walk on at Western Carolina. “I wanted to stay in the state and close to home,” he said. WCU fit the bill because it was only about a 90-minute drive from home. While playing under then-WCU coach Todd Raleigh ’91 MAEd ’94, Holland said he learned much about the game – and about life in general.

“He really helped build us up,” Holland said. Raleigh had a knack for getting more out of the players than they thought they could produce, he said. “He took a team of good old country boys and wanted to prove that we could play.” Under Raleigh’s leadership, the Catamounts earned the Southern Conference championship in 2007, Holland’s last season in Cullowhee.

Holland said that as far as baseball goes, “Coach Raleigh was probably the focal point. He saw a lot in me and helped me reach my potential.” Holland also received instruction and inspiration from players and coaches who had been a part of the Western Carolina community, including Paul Menhart ’04, Jason Beverlin ’01, the late Keith LeClaire ’89 and former WCU skipper Jack Leggett (now Clemson’s head coach).

After signing with the Kansas City Royals in 2007, he spent time in Idaho Falls, Idaho, before going to Wilmington, Del., for the 2008 season. After a stint as a relief pitcher with the Texas League’s Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Holland was promoted to 3-A Omaha (Neb.)” of the Pacific Coast League in late July. In his three years as a minor league player, Holland has had an opportunity to see much of America – from experiencing snow still on the ground during baseball seasons in Idaho and Montana to the 100-degree temperatures on a recent Naturals’ visit to San Antonio.

Holland said he’s adjusted to the daily routine during the season. With most games going late into the evenings, his day usually gets started around 11 a.m. when he wakes up, showers, then heads down for a meal. On game days, he goes to the field for mid-afternoon exercising, which includes a healthy dose of stretching. When the Naturals are at home, he tries to get to the stadium earlier for weightlifting and conditioning drills.

But for Holland, the goal of making the major leagues is well worth the cold and the heat he has to endure. He wants to make his families proud as he displays his baseball skills that both family units helped him develop.

Danny Hirt ’73 is a writer and photographer for the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post newspaper in Fredericksburg, Texas, where he’s been employed for the past 10 years.