Of all the big league stars out there, Harvard freshman Brendan Byrne is probably most like Tom Glavine.
Not because of similar positions—Byrne’s a second baseman and Glavine an All-Star pitcher—and actually, not even because of baseball.
The Massachusetts natives who grew up only 30 miles apart, share a second love—hockey.
Each played at the elite level of both high school baseball and hockey, and while Glavine chose to enter the minor leagues after being drafted by both the NHL and MLB out of high school, Byrne is taking a different route. He’s playing both at Harvard.
Byrne has played a major role in his first season on the Crimson baseball team (18-15-1, 11-5 Ivy), filling in seamlessly at second base and providing a spark for Harvard in the second half of the season. And if that weren’t enough, Byrne had already walked on to the men’s hockey team as a forward this winter. Although he never dressed during Harvard’s 2003-2004 ECAC Championship season, he made his presence felt during practices and in the locker room.
“It’s impressive especially in this era where there is not a lot of hockey-baseball guys out there,” said Harvard coach Joe Walsh. “He definitely brings a hockey mentality to the team.”
After some unfortunate injuries to the Crimson’s infield—sophomore third baseman Josh Klimkiewicz was out for a month (hamstring) and sophomore shortstop Morgan Brown is still sidelined (quadricep)—Byrne stepped in at second base and has played excellent defense in addition to providing timely hitting. In 28 games as a freshman, Byrne has started 17, hitting for a .289 average and mounting a .970 fielding percentage.
“With a few early injuries to key members of our infield there was a big question as to who was going to step up,” said sophomore infielder Zak Farkes. “Brendan jumped at the opportunity and has been huge for us.”
“Brendan has done a nice job for us this year,” Walsh added. “When Brendan came in we thought he was going to be a role player, developing as he came in. He certainly has exceeded the coaching staffs and my expectations.”
Byrne was a star shortstop at Milton Academy, but when the Crimson needed a second baseman, Byrne stepped right in and excelled in his new role, ready to tackle the new challenge.
“I played shortstop in high school, but I had plenty of second base experience in AAU and legion ball,” Byrne said. “The adjustment hasn’t been that bad, and I’m pretty comfortable at second base. It’s actually a little easier than shortstop except the turn for double plays.”
Byrne has gotten a big jump in his collegiate baseball career and the experience he has gained has been invaluable.
“I’m definitely fortunate to get as much time as I’ve had as a freshman,” he said.
Byrne has also has benefited from playing in the middle infield next to Farkes—the 2003 Ivy Rookie of the Year at second base—who has helped his freshman counterpart learn the tricks of the trade.
“Zak is an outstanding player and the biggest thing when you look at Zak is his work ethic,” Byrne said “I’ve been trying to emulate that, and I’ve really gotten to know him well which has been great.”