When former Columbus North baseball standout Devin Mann made it to the University of Louisville’s campus, coach Dan McDonnell told him he needed to be mentally and physically ready to play either shortstop or second base at any time.
Mann proved he was ready to play collegiate baseball during the Cardinals’ series against ninth-ranked Virginia when a teammate broke his hand on a fastball. McDonnell was forced to rely on the young freshman, and Mann stepped in.
“He held his own,” McDonnell said. “I thought it was a good start to his college career because he stepped in and played at a high level with a lot of talented players. Now, he’s taking the next step to being an every-day what we call a count-on guy.”
Now a sophomore, Mann will begin this season as the Louisville’s starting second baseman. McDonnell said he had no trouble trusting Mann because he knew right away how much Mann loved the game.
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Some freshmen may be overwhelmed with playing a major role in front of thousands of fans, but not the ACC All-Freshman Team selection. When Mann started at second base his freshman year against Kentucky and turned around to see 7,000 fans and not one empty seat, he was not intimidated.
“I don’t really get nervous,” Mann said. “It just makes me want to try and play better. It just makes me excited to see all of these people are coming to watch us.”
Mann started 19 of the 39 games he played last year, hitting .303, but becoming a starter is not the end goal for him. McDonnell said one thing he loves about players like Mann is their will to be great and willingness to be coached.
McDonnell never takes for granted the fact that he gets to coach kids whose goal is making it to the Major League Baseball – like Nick Solak, who was drafted in the second round by the Yankees – and Mann is no different. Mann plans on entering the 2018 MLB Draft if everything works out after his junior season.
Getting invited to the Cape Cod League is a step in the right direction for Mann, who is scheduled to play for the Orleans Firebirds this summer. The Cape Cod League is a summer league in Massachusetts, where the top players are invited, and players who do well have a good chance at being picked high in the ensuing draft.
Mann is looking to use the Cape Cod League as a springboard to set him up for his junior season, but he may have to miss playing with the Firebirds if he is granted an even better opportunity.
Mann thinks he has a good shot at making the Team USA roster. The same boy who started playing T-ball at the Hauser High School diamonds when he was 4 may have the opportunity to represent his country on one of the biggest stages. Mann said the USA squad is usually a sophomore-heavy team because those are the guys who are getting ready for the draft.
“That’s crazy to think about, that you get to represent your country,” Mann said. “I’m just a kid from Columbus, and I get to represent them, too — putting a light on Columbus that I’m playing for Team USA representing the country. It’s just cool to think about.”
McDonnell said there is not guarantee that a player will get drafted, but thinks Mann has a solid chance of getting his name called after his junior season. He said Mann has the talent and work ethic, which should allow him to go far.
“If he continues to have that growth mindset and take to coaching, the sky is the limit for him,” McDonnell said. “You don’t ever get comfortable and think you’ve got it made. You’re always striving to get better, and he’s been one of those guys for a year-and-a-half now.”
Now that Mann is done with his freshman season, McDonell will be looking for consistency and looking to see how he handles failure, being one of the top guys throughout the season. Mann said he is not where he wants to be yet but has already come a long way from when he started. He is planning on improving even more his junior season for the Cardinals are ranked No. 8 in a preseason poll.
“It’s awesome to think that we have a top-10 program in baseball, and I’ll be starting second base,” Mann said. “It’s definitely cool to think about how that’s transpired and the opportunity that I have in front of me right now.”
Name: Devin Mann
High school: Columbus North
Position: Second base
Honors: 2016 ACC All-Freshman Team; Invitation to the Cap Cod League