CAROL STREAM – Matt Albin knew at the start of the spring that the 2014 season would be his last one on the baseball field.
Then the Glenbard North senior went out and made it a special one.
Taking over as the ace of the pitching staff with the graduation of Matt Frawley, the right-hander won seven games while posting an ERA of 0.97. Albin struck out 75 batters in 58 innings, yielding only 36 hits.
"I did a lot of work in the offseason," Albin said, "and I was physically and mentally ready for the season."
In his third year on the varsity, Albin said that he became more of a pitcher rather than just a thrower.
"I've always been kind of a hard thrower since I was a little kid," said the righty, who began his career at the age of seven in the Carol Stream Park District before playing travel ball with the Carol Stream Cougars. "Sophomore year and when I was younger, I tried to blow the ball past everyone. But I realized at the varsity level, kids will be able to hit fastballs.
"I really worked on my curveball and change-up, working on getting them over for strikes. Working your off speed and keeping hitters guessing is what will win you games."
Albin also contributed at the plate as Glenbard North's No. 3 hitter after not seeing many opportunities as a junior. He finished with a .327 average, 12 doubles and a team-high 22 RBIs.
"It felt good," he said. "I didn't really hit last year so it was cool batting No. 3 even though I'm not the biggest guy. It was nice to contribute and help my team offensively."
Glenbard North coach Rich Smelko was very appreciate of Albin's efforts.
"One of the biggest things, he competes," Smelko said. "He doesn't give in. He's got good velocity and can throw three pitches for strikes. And he's a bulldog; he's a nice kid who when he steps on the mound, his demeanor totally changes.
"Last year he was bitten by the injury bug a little bit. This year he put it all together, offensively and on the mound. I really don't know where we would have been without him."
There were plenty of colleges, from Creighton to schools in the Ivy League, that were interested in possibly prolonging Albin's career. But already knowing that he wants to become an eye doctor, the recent graduate made the tough decision to focus strictly on his studies going forward.
"I was all for playing college ball last summer," Albin said. "That was pretty much my goal. But I also knew what I wanted to do as a career and that I had to get good grades for graduate school. So I decided to focus on my academics and not play ball.
"It was hard telling my parents I wasn't going to play ball anymore, they've put in so much money for training and traveling teams. But no one is mad at me, my family has been very supportive of it."
In late August, Albin will head to DePaul with competitive baseball behind him. Though he said he comes to terms with his decision more everyday, he does realize that when next spring hits, a part of him will wish to be back in a uniform.
"Next spring when I'm doing nothing, it will definitely hit me," said Albin. "Just those big games on the mound, when you've got control of everything, and you strike out a hitter, that's a feeling I will miss."
Matt Albin by the numbers
7-2 Pitching record
0.97 Earned run average
58 Innings pitched
5 Jersey Number