Last season, senior Drake Sykes was named the Midwest Conference South Player of the Year, leading all Division III players with his .583 On-Base Percentage and registering a .487 Batting Average. He continued to improve as the season went on, leading the team to a perfect finish in their final six games of the season. Over this stretch, Sykes went 10-22, notching three home runs, 10 runs batted in and 10 runs scored. The Baseball team returns their entire roster from last season except for one pitcher, while also adding a new class of freshmen.
With one of the best players in all of the Division III level and a great finish to last year, the Knox Baseball team is expected to perform at a high level this season. Sykes has long been a proponent of the idea that the team plays better when it is loose and just focused on having fun. This will be a team goal as the Knox Baseball squad heads into their season with high hopes of reaching the MWC Championship tournament that has eluded them in recent years.
Get to know star player Drake Sykes before the season starts on March 4.
The Knox Student: When did you start playing baseball?
Drake Sykes: Probably kindergarten, so 5 years old. A long time ago.
TKS: What prompted you to first start playing baseball at such a young age?
DS: I think my parents just kind of got me involved in it and said we’re gonna try it, so that’s just how it started.
TKS: What position do you primarily play?
DS: I play center field.
TKS: When were you named an All-American?
DS: The end of my junior year is when I got named to the All-American team. Sophomore year I was all-conference and then last year All-American.
TKS: What does being named an All-American mean to you?
DS: I mean, it’s no different than any other year. You can’t treat it differently than any other year. You just have got to keep playing and not worry about it.
TKS: Do your teammates treat you differently now that you have been nationally recognized for your high level of play?
DS: Not really. I mean they joke around a little bit more but they don’t treat me any differently than what they did before.
TKS: How do you feel as the upcoming season quickly approaches? How do you think the team will do?
DS: I feel pretty good. We’re picked to do really well and personally I think we’ll do really well. We have a lot of great talent and it’s just going to require a lot of guys to step up and play the way we know how to play.
TKS: Have you ever gotten an injury when playing? If so, how did you deal with it?
DS: I’ve never had a really serious injury during baseball. I’ve always had tweaked things, jammed fingers, that kind of stuff. But never anything so serious that I couldn’t play.
TKS: What motivates you to continue working on improving your craft as a baseball player?
DS: I think it’s just the fact that, I mean it’s pretty cliché because everybody can say it, but basically just trying to prove to myself and everybody else that I can do it because growing up there were times I didn’t play or was told I wasn’t good enough to play, so it’s just kind of proving to myself and everybody else that I can and will succeed.
TKS: What are your personal goals this season?
DS: As much as I’d like to say I want to do better than last season, it’ll be tough. I tell people I would rather win plenty of games and win conference than do personally amazing. I’d rather hit .200 and win games, than hit whatever I hit last year and lose games. That’s just tough to answer.
TKS: What are your goals for the entire team for this season?
DS: As a team I think as far as goals go, just kind of keep going off of what we built at the end of last season and if something goes wrong, don’t let it get to us too much and just play the way we know how to play, and we’ll win games.
TKS: Do you think you will go any further with baseball after graduating from Knox in the spring?
DS: That’s the dream. I hope so, and I think everybody else hopes so but as of right now I don’t want to worry about it too much. I don’t need to have any extra stress into what I’ve got going on right now.