SSU’s McGuire continues winning pedigree

PORTSMOUTH — Coming from one of the most competitive high schools, both academically and athletically, in the country — Danny McGuire is no stranger to attempting to earn his keep.

In fact, he relishes in the challenge.

A career .308 hitter for Shawnee State who has turned 17 double plays in his career with the Bears, McGuire has proven to be a steadying force as well as a leader for SSU’s baseball program.

The trust and faith that the coaching staff and his teammates have had in him, however, have been critical to McGuire in his own development as a player.

“Being a part of this program has been an unbelievable experience,” McGuire said. “I didn’t know what to expect coming in as a freshman going to a place where I knew no one. However, I was welcomed into the program with open arms by the coaching staff and especially my teammates. I never imagined to have the type of friends and make the memories that I have made on and off of the field. It’s been a pleasure to carry on my career here, and make lifelong friends.”

At St. Edward High School in Lakewood, McGuire starred in both baseball and hockey for the Eagles, while contributing to both programs’ success in a heavy manner.

St. Edward won two OHSAA Division I district championships, made two regional semifinal appearances at the Division I Region 3 level, and made a Division I district finals appearance in McGuire’s four seasons.

From a hockey standpoint, McGuire was even better.

St. Edward, which competed in the Great Lakes Hockey League, went 98-49 over McGuire’s four seasons with the program.

He helped lead the Eagles to the 2015 OHSAA state championship game appearance, and led St. Edward to 20 or more victories in every season of his high school career as the Eagles outscored their opposition by a 477-193 margin.

He won Co-Player of the Week honors in the Great Lakes Hockey League (GLHL), and finished in the top-two in team scoring for the season with his offensive skills.

For a program that’s won 11 state championships in ice hockey — and for a player balancing multiple sports that require different skills — McGuire’s success was certainly quite strong.

“I was constantly in season throughout my high school years, but I loved it,” McGuire said. “They sometimes interfered with one another, but I had great coaches in both sports who were very supportive of having multi-sport athletes in their programs. The toughest part, for me, was always transitioning from hockey to baseball. We often made deep runs in the state playoffs, which made me miss the entire baseball preseason and get thrown straight into gameplay, which was tough mentally and physically as the two sports required different skills.”

However, at a place that isn’t afraid to do whatever is necessary in order to win championships, McGuire understood that the expectations were high no matter what he had on his plate.

So he embraced the challenge.

“St. Ed’s is a very unique place,” McGuire said. “Every team goes into each season expecting it to end in a state championship. Anything less than that is not good enough. Earning 67 OHSAA Division I State Championships and 11 national championships doesn’t happen overnight. Every single day, practices and workouts were just as, if not more, competitive than the actual games. The culture and tradition that has been passed down for years is second-to-none. It was really cool to have a chance to play two varsity sports at a school like that. My four years there were an absolute blast. I had a chance to play some of the top talent in the state and in the country in hockey and in baseball.”

With limited options to play college hockey, baseball was going to be the main option for continuation of his athletic career.

The infielder ultimately chose Shawnee State over several NCAA Division III programs despite the three-hour, 48-minute drive to campus — and hasn’t looked back since the decision, which is one that McGuire says has proven to be an incredible one.

“It’s one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made,” McGuire said. “I never imagined meeting so many awesome people on and off of the team. I look forward to each semester, and it’s been so much fun to play baseball at the college level. It’s been a great experience. I quickly learned the family-like atmosphere, especially with a school like this one, where everybody knows each other. I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far.”

Since making the trek to Shawnee State, McGuire has continued to make a positive impact.

He hit .326 as a freshman, followed that campaign up with a team-leading .320 batting average among everyday players as a sophomore while recording 11 double plays defensively, and was one of only four players on the entire SSU roster to appear in at least 19 games while being one of just five to receive a starting spot in 18 contests this past season.

Additionally, McGuire’s GPA — which currently stands at a strong 3.45 — shows that he’s adjusting to college life, and his business adminstration classes, quite well.

“(Phil) Butler has given me the responsibility as an everyday guy as well as a leader on the team, and that has always pushed me to work harder,” McGuire said. “Having significant experience at shortstop, third base, and second base over the last three years has helped as well. I have to know all three positions and make sure that everyone else around me, in the infield, is comfortable and knows what needs to be done. Knowing that I have that trust from the coaching staff gives me a great deal of confidence and allows me to play without being afraid to make a mistake. That’s so important in baseball.”

Considering how the transition to college — and the actual experience at SSU itself — has been going, there isn’t much McGuire can do to make it better than it’s already been.

However, McGuire believes that the Bears have enough potential to compete for serious hardware next year.

After all, that’s been an expectation for McGuire since his days at St. Edward.

“I would love to win two championships next year, starting with the conference tournament,” McGuire said. “Experiencing something like that with your teammates is something that is very difficult to replicate when your playing career is over.”