Two of the best players to come through the Fox Lane baseball program in recent years have made their college decisions within a week of each other.
Shortly after first baseman Matt Oniffrey committed to play at the University of Maryland, shortstop Richard Slenker decided that he’ll play college baseball at Yale.
“Now it’s just about having fun,” Slenker said. “We got all of the stress out of the way. We’re excited.”
Slenker was also recruited by a few Atlantic Coast Conference schools – where he would have had the chance to play against Oniffrey – but ultimately chose Yale because he felt that it gave him the best chance to get a high quality education while continuing his baseball career.
“It’s probably one of the finest schools in the world, and it also gives you the opportunity to go on and play professional baseball in the future,” Slenker said.
Slenker is coming off a junior season in which he hit .478 with 22 runs scored, 27 RBI and three home runs. He should have a chance to earn immediate playing time at Yale.
“Obviously, what he does at the plate is super impressive, but he’s an eyes-in-the-back-of-his-head kind of kid,” Fox Lane coach Matt Hillis said. “It’s all of the intangibles that he brings. He just plays the game the right way.”
While Yale had always been on Slenker’s radar, Maryland was a school that hadn’t been associated with Oniffrey until recently. He had been in close contact with former Kansas State assistant John Szefc and was strongly considering the Wildcats. But when Szefc accepted the head-coaching job at Maryland on July 18, he reached out to Oniffrey soon after.
“As soon as he took the job he called me and asked if I was interested in playing in the ACC,” Oniffrey said. “I jumped at it.”
A natural lefty hitter – he batted .408 with 24 runs scored, 21 RBI and four homers last season – it was the fact that Szefc took interest in his defense that really stood out to Oniffrey.
“The amount of runs that he’s saved for us at first base would be hard to even count,” Hillis said. “(Szefc) was blown away with how he moved around the bag and how he picked the ball.”
With two of the brightest stars in Section 1 leading the way, the Foxes are a popular pick to compete for a Class AA title in the upcoming season. With their college decisions now made, both Slenker and Oniffrey are looking forward to stress-free senior seasons.
“Getting that college part out of the way is a huge deep breath,” Oniffrey said. “It’s so much weight off of my shoulders. … To be able to focus just on high school baseball and next season is great.”