“It’s pretty awesome. It’s fun being able to play for a school that has so much history,” - Columbia University’s Ben Wereski.
There is nothing like playing baseball in the big city. The bright lights. All the hustle and bustle. And some of the most beautiful skylines you will ever see. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that not a lot of ball players get to experience.
When you think of New York City and baseball your mind goes to the New York Yankees and Mets - the two current teams that occupy the cities attention. But, NYC has had a lot of great baseball over the years. Who could forget the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.
At one point, baseball and New York City had some of the biggest stars occupying the same streets. Lost in the all the progressional baseball is the fact the city also produces some great colleges that have some deep baseball routes.
One of those colleges is Columbia University. The Lions have a strong baseball history that dates back to 1868. As a lot of people know, there was a pretty famous alum who attended the university.
Before he was a star for the New York Yankees, Lou Gehrig was hitting home runs into the library. Just walking on campus you can feel the history entering your body.
For Orchard Park native Ben Wereski that was just one of the reasons why he wanted to attend such a prestigious school like Columbia. It had everything he wanted. Columbia has a great academic program and one of the top baseball programs every year in the Ivy League.
“Going into the process, my parents always valued a good education,” stated Wereski. “The combination of being a good baseball school, and the location was hard to pass up. The coaches here really seem to care about your progression as a player, but also has a person. That was something that was really important to me.”
But, it’s not all about baseball for Wereski. The psychology and business major knows what going to a school like Columbia can do for a young man like himself. Networking is huge this day and age. And Columbia has a lot of notable alumni that have gone to the school.
From former president Barack Obama to business mogul Warren Buffett, Columbia University has it’s fair share of who’s who when it comes to alum.
“It’s another great thing about coming to this school,” stated Wereski. “Everyone stays connected after leaving. It’s really one big family. Even with the degree I’m receiving, I think even more importantly the connections I am going to make are going to open doors in the future.”
On the field, Wereski knew his first year was going to be tough. While he was a major success in high school, and summer ball, making the jump to college would be an entirely different animal. Success came easy at Orchard Park. The lefty dominated hitters throughout his career to a tune of 11-4 with a 1.12 earned run average.
If he could replicate any part of that his freshman year Wereski would have deemed it a success. Instead the young lefty struggled with the pace of play early on. That led him to go back during the offseason and make adjustments.
As he said, you can only control what you can control. It was the best way for him to be able to move on and work on the things he needed to work on without letting things get into his head.
“Being able to play at the place that I want to play at (was one of the biggest things),” stated Wereski. “I think one of the biggest things as a pitcher, and in life, is just being able to control what you can control. Not worrying about the last pitch. Just competing and having fun.”
Like most athletes, Wereski wants to see where this baseball thing will take him. He wants to ride the wave as long as he can before he needs to make a decision on whether or not he needs to change directions and use his degree for the real world.
But, that decision won’t be made for awhile. The sophomore still has a couple years left to see where is baseball career is going to take him.
“I want to play ball as long as I can, whatever that may be,” stated Wereski. “I think using this experience here in the city with baseball and academics will help me be a better person everyday.”
A career that started on the baseball diamonds in Orchard Park and now progressed to Columbia Field. Maybe, Ben Wereski can add to the great legacy of Lions’ baseball. Maybe future ball players will be talking about the history of these Lions teams like past player have.
Either way, playing baseball in the city that never sleeps isn’t a bad gig.