For New York Yankees minor leaguer Evan Voliva, his world changed on March 16th just like the rest of the world.
In his first Spring Training of his young career, the second-year right hander from Currituck, had continued the successes from his first season in New York Yankee pinstripes.
“I had finished the season in Pulaski (Appalachian League) and had pitched well there. I was thinking that I would probably start the 2020 season in either Staten Island (New York-Penn League) or Charleston (South Atlantic League)” Voliva said.
But that all came to a halt on March 16th due to the COVID-19 crisis.
In 2019, Voliva had a baseball season for the ages.
As a senior for East Carolina, Voliva appeared in 32 contests, pitched 36.2 innings, registered a 3.19 earned run average (ERA) and had a sterling 3.5 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio. He was a key component in the Pirates winning the American Athletic Conference regular season championship and winning the Greenville regional in the NCAA playoffs.
Days after losing in the Louisville Super Regional, Voliva was then selected in the 18th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the New York Yankees.
Voliva then landed with the Gulf Coast League franchise of the Yankees and pitched in ten games, with a 2.55 ERA, and held opponents to a meager .213 average.
That performance led the Yankees to promote Voliva to the Pulaski franchise in the Appalachian League in August.
It was in Pulaski that Voliva shined.
“When I was promoted to Pulaski, I added a slider to my pitches. Sometimes it would be a cutter and others it would be a slider, but it was effective, and I found a groove,” Voliva stated.
The rookie righty appeared in six contests, pitched 9.1 innings and held opponents to a .107 batting average, all while posting a 0.96 ERA.
“Playing in Pulaski was amazing. The people there loved baseball. The stadium was packed every night. It reminded me of how things were at East Carolina. There was community support unlike any other” Voliva said.
While the first year in professional baseball was successful for Voliva, the change from college to professional baseball required a change of mindset.
“In college, you have one goal. To win a championship. In professional baseball, it’s a more individualistic mindset. Everyone is trying to get better themselves, to reach the next level, and if it means winning a championship, that’s great but it’s not the goal of the individual players on the field.”
For Voliva, that mindset of working hard to reach a goal was something that was instilled at an early age.
“Currituck gave me blue collar roots. Not many of the guys that I play with, woke up early mornings to go work on a farm picking produce at 5 a.m. in the summer,” Voliva said with a chuckle.
“Being from our area, I’ve always have felt as though I’ve had to do a little more. Athletes from our area have always had to do more to get recognized.”
“I was lucky to have great coaches along the way, who pushed me and promoted what I could do. I think if you have an open mind, you take something from every coach you are with. I am grateful to have played in the programs that I did because it made me who I am today.”
Voliva is looking forward to getting back to normalcy. But for right now, it’s a lot of time in Greenville and in Currituck, throwing long toss, lifting weights, waiting and reminiscing.
“I am proud to have come from Currituck and the Currituck baseball program. I am proud to tell people where I am from. Currituck taught me to care about winning and to care about the name on the front of their jersey. I’ll be forever grateful for those lessons.”