BY STEVE KRAH
Michael Pinarski was not sure where baseball was going to take him in the summer of 2020.
When word came down that the remainder of the 2020 season had been canceled at NCAA Division III Manchester University because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pinarski and his teammates were coming off a 6-5 March 10 victory at Taylor University.
“It was a high note for us,” says Pinarski. “We were going into our Florida trip. That got cancelled and the rest of our season got cancelled.
“It was a bummer.”
After quarantine came the chance to play for the Nighthawks in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., where he is got to see many of his baseball friends.
“I like the availability they give us — the opportunity to come out here and show our skills, just have fun and play with other people,” says Pinarski of the CSL, a collaborative effort of Bullpen Tournaments and Pro X Athlete Development which is scheduled to conclude July 30.
Last summer, Pinarski played with the National Amateur Baseball Federation-affiliated Mishawaka Brewers and may have played for that squad again and pursued an internship (he is a double major in Sport Management and Marketing). But the pandemic took away the latter and the Grand Park league came along.
Most of Pinarski’s jobs have revolved around diamonds. He worked the last three summers at Riverview Park softball complex in Elkhart, getting fields ready for games.
Pinarski, a 2017 graduate of Goshen (Ind.) High School, has played three seasons at Manchester in North Manchester, Ind. He has two more years of eligibility. One was added by the NCAA because of the pandemic.
In 71 games — mostly at shortstop — he has hit .247 (54-of-219) with two home runs, 25 runs batted in and 44 runs scored.
In 12 pitching appearances (10 including four starts in 2019), the right-hander is 1-4 with four saves. In 37 innings, he has 28 strikeouts and eight walks.
As a sophomore in 2019, Pinarski was on the all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference first team after hitting .262 (27-of-103) with one hour, one triple and five doubles. His on-base percentage was .412. He also earned four saves on the mound.
In 2020, Pinarski hit .304 (7-of-23) in seven games. In one three-inning mound appearance with five strikeouts and one walk.
But those aren’t the biggest source of pride.
“My best quality is probably on the defensive side — being smooth and quick to the ball, getting rid of it and getting the ball there on time,” says Pinarski.
He’s done it all as a Type 1 Diabetic.
Michael is the third of Jim and Valerie Pinarski’s five children — Andrea and Stephen are older; Nathan and Lucas are younger. Andrea and Stephen went to Concord High School, where they were athletes.
Andrea Pinarski is now the Mintuemen’s head softball coach. Stephen Pinarski was a baseball standout for Manchester. His senior season was 2018.
Michael and Nathan went to Goshen High School. Michael says Lucas looks to be headed to Concord.
Goshen Little League gave Michael his first organized baseball experiences.
“I fell in love with it,” says Pinarski. “I was there basically everyday I could be.”
When it was time for travel baseball, Pinarski went with the Goshen Dugout Club then the Michiana Scrappers.
During his high school summers, Pinarski played for the Jim Treadway-managed Bristol American Legion Post 143.
Josh Keister was Pinarski’s head coach at Goshen High.
Pinarski calls his coach at Manchester — Rick Espeset — “a man of few words.”
“I like him as a coach and as a person,” says Pinarski. “He’s pretty good.”