His name is Ricky College, as in Joe College, and Harvard third baseman Rick Pearce has everything a scholar-athlete should. An engineering major with a heavy course load, he still finds time to participate in Cambridge's Big Brother program. His hobbies include photography, skiing and coin-collecting. And baseball.
Pearce played three sports at Pittsfield (Mass.) High School, and when he came to Harvard he tried freshman football. "I was one of about 36 quarterbacks. When I made the baseball team, I decided my future was there, so I dropped football and devoted my time to that," the Lowell House senior explains.
The devotion shows. A conservative estimate of his fielding would place him among the best infielders in the Eastern League. Another, no less accurate estimate was offered by his high school baseball coach, who once said Pearce wasn't the best fielder in school history, he was tied. Tied with someone named Mark Belanger.
Comparisons with Belanger came early ("Little League," Pearce laughs) and kept coming. Unfortunately, they carried over to his hitting as well.
In 33 games last season, the thirdsacker connected for only 19 hits and a 192 batting average. Like Belanger, the golden-gloved Baltimore Orioles short-stop, he was called a good fielder but worthless at the plate.
This season has proved a totally different story. After ten games, the former easy out led the team with a robust .357 mark--ten hits in 28 at bats.
Along with the hits have come five runs batted in (one below the team lead), eight runs (three less than he scored all last year and tied for team honors with teammate Brad Bauer) and 11 walks, giving him an awesome on-base percentage of .530. Suddenly Pearce is no Marc Belanger with the stick.
"I think being completely healthy has something to do with it," Pearce commented. "I'm also less pressured academically which means I'm getting more sleep. And I didn't play this summer for the first time."
He did work for IBM in Manassas, Virginia, which meant hardly picking up a ball for three months. He spent previous summers playing Legion ball (with the Mass. state champion Tyler Aces), Boston Park League ball (on the DiSangros Dodgers) and coaching kids in Pittsfield for an outfit called the Flea League.
But if his hitting has changed drastically from previous campaigns, Pearce himself hasn't. He remains the team leader he has always been, and mere mention of his name to anyone who knows him unleashes a barrage of compliments.
"He's more perfect than anything else," says firstbaseman Mark Bingham, who coined the Ricky College nickname because "he looks like Archie Andrews." Pearce "doesn't complain, always hustles and is a very dedicated person about everything he does," Bingham says. Most people strive to be like that," adds the firstsacker. "Rick just succeeds a little better than most."
Team captain and roommate Charlie Santos-Buch agrees. "There's no question that Rick is the leader--I voted for him as team captain. As far as team playing goes, he's unbelievable. And this year he's playing fantastic ball."
Perhaps Pearce's biggest booster is coach Alex Nahigian: "Rick's just a super kid. He's strictly a team player, and I can't say enough about him. Just a super kid."
And as if his hustle, leadership and personality don't make him popular enough, ask a pitcher what it's like to have a glove like that down at third.
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