By: Alexis Brudnicki
The second verse is better than the first for Royce Ando.
In his sophomore season at Michigan State University, the 19-year-old middle infielder has found the adjustment to collegiate baseball easier than in his rookie year, making the necessary adjustments and enjoying some personal success to go with a 15-5 Spartans record, along with three wins in three games in Big Ten conference play.
“The second time around, things are a lot easier,” Ando said. “You just know what’s coming up, practice-wise, game-wise, and the whole gist of college baseball and how it all works. I’m looking forward to this season and looking forward to playing for the Spartans.”
In 19 games and 18 starts, the Toronto native is hitting .304/.400/.464 this season with two home runs, five doubles, 17 runs scored and 11 runs driven in, with time at both second base and shortstop.
“The biggest adjustment is how college baseball works,” Ando said. “How the conference works, the [Ratings Percentage Index] and how important every game is because it affects you down the road, and if you’re trying to qualify for a regional and that part of it. College baseball is all about the team, playing for each other, picking each other up, and I’m enjoying it. I am loving it down here. It’s awesome.”
Aiding in his transition when Ando first entered the collegiate realm, and helping him adjust to life both on and off the field were the experiences that he garnered in his high school days at John Fraser Secondary School, playing for both the Ontario Blue Jays and Canadian Junior National Team program.
“To have those experiences beforehand, it plays a role mentally,” the 5-foot-11, 190-pound infielder said. “Because you’ve already been there where the stakes are high, like in Japan [at the junior world championships] with the national team. And physically it helps, seeing a lot of velocity and facing minor league pitching all of that.
“So I can’t thank Baseball Canada enough for doing the things that they do for us, and the OBJ as well, for all those experiences we had. We had the college tour with OBJ [playing a variety of teams over a two-month period in the fall], and that’s probably the biggest thing that has helped me because you get your foot inside college baseball and you see how much of a team atmosphere it is, and how fun it could be.”
There are multiple pieces of wisdom that Greg Hamilton – Baseball Canada’s director of national teams – passed along to Ando and his young Team Canada teammates, but they better fit into the puzzle now for the Spartans shortstop, with some firsthand experience under his belt.
“Oh definitely,” Ando said. “I remember he was saying how whatever you were beforehand, whether you were an All-American, or the top player in your state or province, that doesn’t matter when you walk onto the field at college, or who you’re with. It’s about performance. You’ve got to play the game hard no matter what. It doesn’t matter who you are. I remember him saying that clearly and I still think about it to this day.”
In making his decision to head to Michigan State, there were a variety of factors that played a part for Ando, but with more than a year-and-a-half at the school already in the rear view, he is happy knowing that he made the right choice.
“When I walked on campus, it just felt like the perfect fit,” he said. “I met the coaches, loved the coaches, and they’re a great fit, the campus was beautiful and relatively close to home, instead of going out west or down south, and I don’t mind the weather. I’m used to four seasons, I love four seasons, so it was an easy choice.”
Seeing early success on the field, Ando and the Spartans are hoping for much more of the same as the year continues, and the young Canuck hopes to keep things rolling in his sophomore season.
“We are very collective as a team,” Ando said. “Even off the field, we’re always having a great time with each other, and we just enjoy every moment. It’s going to be a good year.”