Mercer baseball head coach Craig Gibson just shakes his head and smiles when asked how happy he is to have catcher Charlie Madden back for his senior season.
“Oh man, that guy is special,” Gibson said. “He just means so much to our team. He’s a great leader, a great player. It’s great to have him back.”
There was a chance that wouldn’t happen last summer, but Madden decided to return after being drafted by the Chicago White Sox. He was picked in the 25th round and the 746th pick after a strong junior season.
Madden batted .287 last year with 50 RBI and 11 home runs while starting 53 games and helping lead the Bears to the Southern Conference regular-season title. He was named to the coaches’ preseason All-Southern Conference second team this month.
“Extremely tough,” Madden said of the decision. “This place has been home for three, now four years, and I love every player that I’ve played with and all the coaches, so it was a tough decision.”
While it was a difficult process, it likely will be one that is beneficial to Madden. He has started 149 games during his Mercer career with 23 home runs and 121 RBI.
“It was a good experience, obviously something I’ve never been through before,” Madden said. “But it’s something I’m glad I’ve been through, and hopefully, if the opportunity comes up again, it will give me a better understanding of the process.”
Returning to a talented Mercer team certainly will help. Other than Kyle Lewis, who became Mercer’s first-ever first-round draft pick last summer, the Bears return their entire starting lineup, and they also return most of their pitching staff.
“Returning everybody, obviously except for Kyle, he’s a big piece ... but every pitcher and every other starter, that’s huge,” Madden said. “I think we have the oldest infield in the country with all the seniors; no one can beat us in that, but just having all the pieces come back, it’s going to be a good year.”
That should lead toward another draft opportunity for Madden, but he’s not focusing on that just yet. His senior season opens at 4 p.m. on Friday at OrthoGeorgia Park against Maryland-Eastern Shore.
“Honestly, I don’t feel as much pressure at all because ... the play takes care of itself,” Madden said. “So I haven’t felt nearly as much pressure as last year. I’m just out here trying to have fun and enjoy my last year, and I’m excited to see how this season goes.”
Truitt on Golden Spikes watch list
The Golden Spikes Award committee likely got plenty of chances to see Mercer’s baseball team play last year as Kyle Lewis became the first Bears player to win the award.
That offered many chances to see Trey Truitt, as well. Truitt didn’t disappoint as he batted .335 with 17 home runs and 54 RBI last season. Truitt was named to the Golden Spikes 55-player watch list for this season.
Truitt and the Bears open their season at 4 p.m. on Friday against Maryland-Eastern Shore.
“That is a great honor for him,” Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said. “I am really happy for him individually and for the program. I am looking forward to Trey having a great season this year.”