(Editor’s note: This piece was first posted in May, during the Palmyra baseball team’s high-school season)
BY JEFF FALK
Physically speaking, Colby Conway is a very talented athlete. But what sets him apart from almost every other athlete in Lebanon County is his mental and emotional approaches to the games he plays.
When he steps between the lines, Conway’s focus and determination seemingly transform him into a completely different person. His competitiveness simply can’t be ignored, making him a natural leader to everyone around him.
“Plenty of people have told me that. Countless people,” said Conway. “Grandparents, parents, coaches, even the guys on the team. I guess it comes through more when I’m not doing good or having a bad game. Some of the guys, especially Nick (fellow senior, Slobozien), will say, ‘Relax. Just go out and have fun.’
“It does matter,” Conway continued. “If you hear it enough, you figure you should loosen up a little bit. I do appreciate it when people say it. I take it into consideration.”
Because of his nature, Conway tends to gravitate towards the most demanding positions in the sports he plays.
On the Palmyra baseball team, Conway is a no-nonsense senior catcher. For the Cougars during the winter months, Conway is an over-achieving point guard.
“Obviously baseball and basketball have captains and leaders,” said Conway. “I was a captain for both teams. In basketball, I played point guard. In baseball, I play catcher. In basketball, I see the whole floor. And a catcher is a general or a quarterback, or like the point guard in basketball. I’m used to being leaned on heavily.
“I would like to think I’m a leader,” continued Conway. “I would say that people say that I am. I was probably a little more vocal in basketball, especially in practice.”
The origin of Conway’s unique business-like approach is difficult to pinpoint. As far as he can tell, he’s always been that way on the athletic fields. Or at least it’s the player he has grown into.
“It started pretty early,” said Conway. “Back in the t-ball days, when I made an out, I’d cry. Once I moved out of recreational play, it really kicked in. How it is now that began, I’d say around 13 or around my freshman year of high school sports.
“Part of it comes from that I’m very hard on myself,” Conway added. “I demand the best from myself. I am very focused out there. When I’m on the court, I’m very business-like. I don’t like to lose so I do the best I can.”
The trick for Conway is to incorporate fun into his serious approach.
“I do love to play baseball,” said Conway. “When I’m out there, I enjoy every minute of it. I can go out there and enjoy it. I’d still rather be out there than doing anything else.”
But all of Conway’s hard work has not come without rewards. Before the season began, Conway committed to attend Mount Olive College in North Carolina and play Division Two baseball there.
“I’m huge with competition,” said Conway. “I try to win everything, even if it’s board games. I go hard in gym class. I’m a gym class hero.
“It’s crazy how coaches pick up on everything you do,” added Conway. “I felt that even more, especially in my junior and sophomore years, when I was going through the recruiting process. And the underclassmen watch everything we (the seniors) do and they look to us for in-game guidance. They do look to me in some regards.”
To date, Conway’s Cougars haven’t lived up to their pre-season expectations, his or other’s outside the program.
“I wouldn’t say the season has been a disappointment, by any standards, especially considering the injuries we had,” said Conway. “We have six seniors in our starting lineup. Our hitting has been good and our pitching is better than it was at the beginning of the year. But our defense has been pourous at times. We should make the playoffs. It should come down to our pitching, and we should go a little ways.
At the time of this writing, Palmyra was 11-7 overall and the 16th ranked Class AAA club in District Three.
“Obviously it starts with the these last two (regular-season) games,” said Conway. “I’d like to say they’re must-win games. If we don’t our destiny is other teams’ hands. If we get in (to the playoffs), it’s a whole new season. It’s like going back to 0-0.
“We’ve got two weeks from the end of the regular season to the beginning of the postseason,” Conway continued, “and in the playoffs you’ve got to be ready to play every inning. It all starts with staying in shape and remaining focused.”
Being the high achiever that he is, not only did Conway set pre-season goals for his team, he also set them for himself.
“Of course, all players do,” said Conway. “My personal goals have pretty much always been to improve. I wanted to hit over .375. I hit .325 as a junior and .333 as a sophomore.
“And I definitely wanted to call a better game,” continued Conway. “Handle the pitchers better. Build the trust of the pitchers more. I wanted to become a more cerebral catcher. I’d like to think that I’m succeeding in that area.”
Because if Conway sets his mind to something, he usually does.