Coming from a small town and being counted on to play a varsity sport is not an easy task to ask of anyone. It can be a very challenging transition.
But freshmen baseball players Noah West and Gavin Lyon have something that can help make that transition much easier — a friendship dating back to the days of Little League.
And, as West noted, having his best friend by his side to begin his collegiate baseball career at Ohio State proved to be very advantageous for the pair.
“Coming into here, I was pretty nervous; it was really nerve-wracking,” West said. “A whole new set of players who we were playing with, and we don’t know them that well. But coming here with Gavin is basically a comfort zone. He’s always had my back, and if something’s going on, I can always come talk to him. It was always just a lot easier coming here with him.”
They first started playing with each other when they were on a travel team called the Westerville Warhawks. Their fathers had been good friends and both helped coach the team. From there, they would continue to grow up and play at every level together from Little League to the varsity at their school, Westerville Central High School.
For their former high-school baseball coach, Jeff Keifer, it has been a remarkable thing to watch the two of them grow up together and now both play at the highest level of amateur baseball.
“They went on spring trips together. They played on the same travel teams growing up and then eventually playing on practice teams and ultimately junior varsity and varsity for three years,” Keifer said. “And that in and of itself must be incredibly special — just to be able to do that. But the uniqueness of them both being able to go on and play at the next level at a place with the storied history of Ohio State, it was just great for both of them.”
Both have made it to the level of college baseball, but each took different paths.
West, the youngest of three brothers, has grown up in a baseball family and has always had the sport in the forefront of his mind. Coach Keifer, who coached both West’s older brothers in high school, had figured for a long time Noah was going to be able to move on to the next level.
“He just had that special athleticism that makes the difference between just a really good high-school player and a college athlete,” Keifer said.
OSU baseball coach Greg Beals thought West had the skills to live up to the high expectations that come with playing shortstop at OSU.
“I thought Noah showed me that between his hands, his athleticism and especially his arm strength that he could stay at shortstop at the college level,” Beals said.
Lyon was a multi-sport athlete in high school, serving as both a starting pitcher for the baseball team and as starting quarterback for the football team. There was a time when baseball was not necessarily the runaway first sport for Lyon.
“I was kind of new to baseball,” Lyon admits. “I’ve always loved both, but baseball especially through high school became the one, that I knew was going to be the one that I wanted to pursue further.”
But as he continued on his high school career, Lyon became more enamored with the game of baseball and his coach said that it had probably surpassed football as his favorite sport by the time he was a senior.
Though he now only plays the one sport, Lyon still possesses that athleticism that made him such an exciting player to watch. Coach Beals believes it is really special when you see someone who can excel in two sports the way Lyon did at Westerville Central.
“It speaks to his athleticism,” Beals said. “To be able to quarterback at a big high school like that and then also be the No. 1 pitcher on his high school team speaks a lot about his athleticism.”
When it finally came time to commit to a school, West was the first to submit a pledge to coach Beals and the OSU program. And at that point, it quickly became an easier decision for Lyon to decide to join the OSU baseball team. The prospect of playing baseball together for four more years with his best friend seemed too good an offer to pass up.
“Noah visited first and he committed, so I committed a little later, but there was always that thing where Noah was pushing me to commit,” Lyon said. “We had always been thinking about it, like how cool would that be, and it really was like a dream come true when it all came into place.”
For West, it was just a dream, one that somehow became fact rather than fiction.
“I just never thought it would be possible to play baseball with my best friend all the way through high school,” he said.