Baseball: Libertyville’s Mack to play at Grinnell College
Anthony Mack of the Wildcats makes a play at second during earlier action this season against Carmel. The shortstop will play college baseball at Grinnell. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 8, 2012 9:22PM
Like many kids, Libertyville senior shortstop Anthony Mack has always had the dream of playing baseball at the college level — and beyond.
On Friday, he announced he’s made the first part of that dream a reality. And he couldn’t be happier about it.
Upon graduating this summer, Mack will play hardball for Division III Grinnell College, in Iowa — a prestigious, nationally-renowned liberal arts school known for its high academic standards. It didn’t hurt that the left-handed hitting Mack scored a composite average of 32 on his ACT exams at LHS.
“Saying this is a dream come true ... that’s very accurate,” Mack said. “I’ve been playing baseball since I can remember. Being able to play in college is something I’ve always dreamed of being able to do. I count every day I’m able to play as a blessing. It’s truly an honor.”
In fact, he was so impressed with Grinnell, he decided to turn down an offer from Trinity University, in San Antonio, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation among D-III baseball teams.
“That was the first thing that got Grinnell interested in me, was my baseball ability,” Mack said. “But then, I feel like having that ACT score and being a good student truly helped open the door even further. I’m very honored that they would even consider me for their school. I’m excited I’m gonna be there, and be a part of their team.”
Grinnell coach Tim Hollibaugh is thrilled to have him.
“When I saw him at camp, and in games, I was impressed with his leadership skills and probably more importantly, his effort.” Hollibaugh said. “Everything he did was just complete hustle. He was diving after balls, and looked very comfortable out there. He was just a guy that I truly believed would be a great fit for our program based on all the little intangible things that he brings as a person, and a player.”
On the diamond, Mack has put up some eye-catching numbers this season — especially with his bat — for the Wildcats (16-8 overall, 6-2 NSC Lake Division). His batting average as of May 4 was a gaudy .552, which includes a .618 on-base percentage and an .845 slugging percentage, batting mostly out of the No. 2 slot in the lineup for coach Jim Schurr.
Mack has 32 hits, eight doubles, three triples, a homer and 23 RBI. He’s also scored 27 runs in 24 games.
In April, he narrowly missed hitting a home run twice in a varsity game at Miller Park in Milwaukee — in a victory against Riverside (Milwaukee) — where Major League Baseball’s Brewers play. That night, he hit the top of the right-center field fence with a towering fly ball in his first at-bat, and sent a second booming fly to the warning track, in almost the same spot, during his second trip to the plate.
“After that one hit the fence, I was like, ohhh, I don’t think I’ll have another chance at this,” Mack said with a laugh. “I know the talent pool of guys who want to make the majors is rather large. But that’s always been a dream of mine, too.”
Two of the biggest intangible factors Grinnell may benefit from when the skilled 6-foot-2, 175-pounder arrives are his positive attitude and his work ethic. He was also a starter last fall and winter for Libertyville’s varsity basketball team, and will head to Iowa with the knowledge he may have to earn a spot in the lineup, instead of expecting to have it handed to him.
“They have a lot of returning players, so I’m gonna have to work my way up as it would be at most schools, but as far as I know, I think they may have me try to play shortstop still,” Mack said. “That’s where they saw me play, and that’s where I feel most comfortable. I hope that’s where they want me to play. I’m just going to show up, do my best, show them what I can do ... and hopefully continue my success I’m having right now at the next level.”
Mack added that he’d gotten lukewarm interest from a handful of Division I clubs, which included a letter of interest from Ohio University, and he was in touch with several Ivy League teams on the east coast at one point — including Harvard and Penn.
“When it came down to it, and I factored everything in, I knew Grinnell was truly the place I wanted to be,” Mack said.
Confidence boost: Mack said Wildcat teammate and right-handed pitcher Darwin Townsend, who just announced he will attend Division III Augustana, should be credited with giving his team a 180-degree morale boost last Wednesday.
That was when Libertyville held on for a key 5-3 victory at Mundelein (21-4, 7-1 NSC Lake) — a day after they were thumped at home by the Mustangs, 15-3. Had they lost, they would have been all but mathematically eliminated from the division race.
Townsend threw six innings of three-hit, shutout ball and earned the win.
“Those two days (May 1-2) were a crazy emotional roller coaster,” Mack said. “After getting 10-runned (slaughter rule) by one of your biggest rivals, you kind of lose a little confidence. But Dar’s an amazing pitcher.”