PROCTORVILLE — To turn a team around from a unit that had won just three games in two seasons combined to a conference title and a district final appearance takes a great deal of leadership.
That, however, is what Fairland’s Bryan DeFoe provided at every turn for the Dragons.
The catching standout, who helped lead Fairland to an 18-9 record during his junior season of competition, will join the Shawnee State baseball program for the 2020-21 academic year on forward.
For DeFoe, the eastern Lawrence County native is simply hoping to make a similar impression and impact that he made while at Fairland — and is thrilled with the opportunity to become the first male in his family to attend college.
“It means everything to me,” DeFoe said. “Every little boy that plays baseball dreams of playing in the major leagues. I always dreamed of playing college ball. No male in my family has went to college, and few have graduated high school. I have a true love for baseball, and I would play all day, everyday if I could.”
After winning only three contests during each of his first two seasons, DeFoe helped lead the Dragons to new heights in a banner 2019 campaign — which saw Fairland win 13 straight games at one point.
From March 30 to April 22 of that year, the Dragons — after starting the season 0-3 prior to March 30 — used that winning streak to go 12-2 in Ohio Valley Conference competition en route to a widely unexpected conference title.
Fueling that run?
Seven games where Fairland won by two runs or less, including four of such variety between March 30 through April 5.
This success ultimately led to a spirited postseason run, where Fairland added in an eighth victory by two runs or less when the Dragons defeated Crooksville, 7-6, to reach the OHSAA Division III Southeast District finals before falling to Adena at that juncture.
“The entire season, last year, was my favorite baseball memory,” DeFoe said. “I really enjoyed playing with those guys and for our coaching staff. It’s a bunch of guys that inspire you to bring your best every time out. It’s a shame that we couldn’t build on our success from last year, but the 2019 season is one that I’ll always remember because of not only how we played, but how much fun we had together as a team.”
Despite being just 5-6, DeFoe’s quickness and mental fortitude led to a starting job within Fairland’s defensive line from a football perspective, where he ultimately played at nose guard.
The Dragons went 6-4 in each of DeFoe’s final three seasons, with a playoff appearance in 2018 coming as a result.
DeFoe also became a star powerlifter for Fairland, helping the Dragons win a sectional championship after lifting a personal-best 400-pound deadlift at the meet — all while finishing tops in his weight class.
“Playing football at Fairland was amazing,” DeFoe said. “To have a coach give me the opportunity to play at a position that bigger guys are supposed to play, and to always have to go against guys two to three times bigger than me yet still win those battles in the trenches was awesome. Powerlifting is such an amazing sport and every school should have it. It’s basically a bunch of little competitions inside one big one. It’s definitely a great way to meet new people and start friendly rivalries.”
However, his best sport was and is clearly baseball.
On the diamond, DeFoe posted a respectable .788 .OPS, but really turned heads with his efficiency behind the plate — committing just three errors in a team-high 140 defensive chances to post a strong .979 fielding percentage.
“It means a lot,” DeFoe said. “There have been a lot of really good catchers to come out of Fairland who haven’t played college baseball. Just being a catcher means a lot. Your coach, pitcher and defense all have to trust you to keep the ball in front of you when the ball hits the dirt, and to catch every ball thrown to you.”
As DeFoe makes the transition to college, the future sport management major wants to make good on his efforts to not only be a competitive baseball player, but a future college graduate and a strong contributor to society down the line.
“I want to win and earn all of the awards that I can as a student-athlete,” DeFoe said. “I am also trying to work hard enough to earn a spot somewhere after college.”
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