WEST POINT — Noah Essary knows exactly how many days he went without stepping onto a baseball field.
Dressed smartly in a blue button-down shirt and a gold tie, the West Point High School senior rattled off the number effortlessly: 347.
Essary, who has always had baseball in his blood, spent almost a year without playing a single game. On Feb. 23, he and the Green Wave finally got to break that streak by taking on Eupora in the opening game of Essary’s final high school season.
“When you’re somebody like me, the game is your life,” he said. “It was fun. It all hit you at once — being the last first inning — but it was great.”
On Tuesday, Essary ensured he’ll be spending a lot more time on the baseball field. He signed his national letter of intent to play for West Virginia University Institute of Technology, which is located in Beckley, West Virginia. The Golden Bears compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, and as of next season, Essary will be one of them.
“I just felt like it was a great fit for me,” Essary said.
He said he liked WVU Tech’s classrooms, campus and strong engineering program. When coach Lawrence Nesselrodt showed Essary plans for the school’s new baseball stadium and told him he could have a chance to start as a freshman, Essary was sold.
“It just all lined up, and they offered me, and I felt like that was the fit for me,” he said.
West Point coach Blake Hutchison said Essary could play at first or third base at the next level. One of few seniors on the team, Essary is a leader for the Green Wave who was voted team captain by his teammates. His impact is felt on the field as well — in both hitting and pitching.
“He’s really swinging the bat really well right now,” Hutchison said. “He’s probably our most consistent strike-thrower on the mound, so we’re expecting big things out of him.”
Essary is fully recovered from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum that plagued him since he was 13. He went through physical therapy to rehab the injury and pitched through the tear for four years, but this past summer, he decided to fix it once and for all.
Essary underwent a surgery performed by Dr. Benton A. Emblom at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham, Alabama. By December, he was back to full strength.
“It was rough coming back from that, but I’m really glad it happened because I’m throwing harder and everything’s been uphill since,” Essary said.
He credited his father Keith, who helps out with the West Point program and has been a “driving force” in his son’s life, and the rest of his family for their help in taking Tuesday’s next step.
“This is something I’ve been working toward since I was just a little kid,” Essary said. “I couldn’t thank them enough. They’ve done outstanding things for me, and I hope that I can return that on the field for them.”
Hutchison, who praised Essary for his hustle, strong mindset and hard work, said he has no doubt Essary will do just that when he heads to WVU Tech in the fall.
“I kind of knew from the moment I met him that he was a special player,” Hutchison said. “I know he’ll do well. They’re getting a good player out of him.”
But first, Essary will finish out his season and the rest of his senior year with one more obstacle now cleared.
“When you sign to play college baseball when that’s been your lifelong dream, it kind of takes some pressure off, and you can finally relax and just have fun and play the game you love,” he said.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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