Griffin Andreychuk has a chip on his shoulder.
The senior on Seattle U's baseball team has always felt a bit like he has something to prove – first to others, and now, to himself.
Andreychuk is from Nanaimo, B.C., Canada, a city on Vancouver Island, where hockey is the sport kids play, not baseball.
In fact, Andreychuk didn't even play baseball for his high school. Only two boys in his high school of about 1,500 even played the sport. Instead, Andreychuk got his baseball fix playing for a club team.
Growing up, Andreychuk played all types of sports – soccer, skiing, hockey, basketball, baseball. He admits that baseball wasn't always his favorite sport or the sport he was most passionate about.
“Not many kids played baseball, so I was the odd man out,” Andreychuk said. “Every kid in high school plays hockey and if you don't, I don't want to say you don't fit in, because you do, but it's just not typical.”
However, he continued playing it and began to love it more the better he got.
By the time he was 12 years old, Andreychuk was good enough to play in the Cal Ripken World Series for Team Canada, which he says was a fun experience.
“That's when I realized I should pursue it to the best of my ability because I was good at it,” Andreychuk said. “Then from there, each year progressed into ‘I want to go play college baseball' and then I wanted to go see if I could play professional baseball as well, so it's been a spiral of where I wanted to go.”
Andreychuk became determined to play at the next level, so much so that he graduated a semester early from high school so he could play on the mainland in Langley, B.C.
“I didn't take part in any of my senior stuff, which was kind of tough, but it was what I wanted to do to pursue something bigger,” Andreychuk said.
That also meant he always knew he would need to leave Canada.
“My plan was to play baseball in the states because there's not much college baseball opportunity in Canada, so leaving was definitely the biggest opportunity for me,” Andreychuk said. “I wanted to leave and see where I could go from there.”
And where he went was Seattle U.
But that wasn't always the plan. It wasn't even close to the plan.
Head coach Donny Harrel saw Andreychuk play up in Skagit County, Wash., and talked to him then, but the Redhawks already had a shortstop coming in.
“I was recruited, but at the same time I wasn't,” Andreychuk said of that time. “I didn't have a spot.”
His original plan instead was to go to a junior college in Texas.
Then, a week before he was supposed to get on a flight to Texas, Harrel called him.
“He said ‘our shortstop left. What are the odds you can come play for us?',” Andreychuk recalls. “I jumped on the ship and took a shot, and it's been a great four years since then.”
Andreychuk didn't have much information about Seattle U. All he knew was that he could play for a Division I baseball program and that he liked Harrel and the other coaches.
That was enough.
“It was a leap of faith just hoping it would work out and putting my best foot forward,” Andreychuk said. “It ended up being one of the best decisions I've made in the last four years.”
When Andreychuk got to Seattle, he found himself with something to prove.
Strike one: He was a Canadian playing baseball instead of hockey.
“I always kind of have a chip on my shoulder just coming from where I come from in Canada. Baseball isn't a big deal there. It's all hockey. So I feel like all Canadians who play baseball, especially in college, have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove because they want to prove that Canadians can play baseball too,” Andreychuk said.
And it's not only proving that Canadians can play baseball. It's proving that if they do make it to play in college, that they're actually good at that level.
“You want to prove that you're not just here,” Andreychuk said. “You're a key part of the team.”
Strike two: He wasn't a typical recruit, only gaining a spot when another guy de-committed.
“I wanted to prove myself, which was a big deal for me because I wanted to show the coaches that I could play here and I actually fit in,” Andreychuk said. “As a player you want to show the coaches that invested in you that you want to give them something back.”
Two strikes. But not to be counted out quite yet.
Andreychuk said that freshman year was about him showing that he fit in at Seattle U since he wasn't recruited like the others on the team.
He was successful, but he was also allowed to make mistakes. He realized that his teammates and coaches would still accept him.
“I realized that each day is a new day,” Andreychuk said. “It's important to keep looking ahead and forget what I just did and instead see what I can do tomorrow.”
Now, Andreychuk still describes his “brand of baseball” as playing with a chip on his shoulder, but it's a different kind of chip.
He's still trying to prove himself, but now he's not trying to prove himself to others. He's just proving to himself that he can be great.
The chip on his shoulder means that he plays hard.
“Playing like it's your last game and not taking the game for granted is a big thing for me,” Andreychuk said. “Playing the game hard is important because I don't know when I'll stop playing, and it could be coming soon.”
Throughout his four years at Seattle U, Andreychuk has lived up to that. Baseball has been a sort of release for him, and it's allowed him to fill his time with something he loves.
It's also shaped who he is today.
The biggest way it's done that? It's helped him understand the importance of family.
“Donny (Harrel) creates this family-like atmosphere, and he's probably one of the best coaches I've ever had, and I can say all the guys on our team probably agree,” Andreychuk said. “He creates a dynamic that makes you understand the importance of who you have around you and what they mean to you.”
His team and family are a good support system in a sport where success and failure live in delicate balance.
“There's times when it's all eyes on you for that one moment, and you could be the hero or you could not be, and most of the time you do fail,” Andreychuk said. “It's a mental game because of all the failure and all the trials and tribulations you have to go through to become good. You could be good for a week and then you could be really bad for three weeks. It takes a lot of mental toughness.”
Despite the tough times, Andreychuk has continued to work hard with that chip on his shoulder.
In his four years, Andreychuk wants to have left no doubt in his abilities with the people around him and the people who he has crossed paths with.
“The biggest thing I want to be remembered for is somebody who took no days for granted as a student and as an athlete, and as somebody who left no doubt when it came to the career that I wanted to have here,” Andreychuk said.