May 28, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin

Boston College’s Harry Darling has been very patient.  And, now, after five years of waiting for his time to shine for the Eagles, his baseball dreams are finally coming true.

The native of Aloha, Ore., met the Eagles’ former head coach Pete Hughes at a summer camp before his senior year of high school and then took a recruiting visit to the East Coast school.   Darling immediately fell in love with the campus and the city, and decided to make the cross-country journey to play baseball at the highly-touted academic institution.

Despite seeing almost zero playing time in his first two years, Darling’s initial feelings towards the school and program remained intact.  The catcher redshirted his freshman year, and played in just one game in his second season.

“Going through those first two years was kind of tough because I’ve always been very competitive and loved being out on the field, but I stuck it out,” said Darling.  “I loved all my teammates and that made it a lot easier.”

When Mik Aoki took the helm of the Eagles’ program in 2007, Darling moved into a leadership role, even though his playing time was limited as Tony Sanchez – now a possible first-round Major League Baseball draft pick and All-Atlantic Coast Conference First Team selection – took over behind the plate.

“Again, my playing time was very limited behind him,” said Darling.  “He’s a great talent, so I was trying to find myself in the lineup in different areas and working for that.”

Darling started only seven games that season, but he grew into a player looked to by teammates with questions and concerns, and eventually was voted co-captain in the last two seasons.

“(Being voted co-captain) still one of the proudest things I’ve done – getting that recognition from my peers, and having that respect and level of attention from the coaches,” said Darling.

There are few seniors in Division I college baseball and even fewer fifth-year players, but Darling knew this year’s team had a chance to be special and wanted to be a part of the experience.

“My decision to come back was not to resurrect some dream of getting drafted and making a bunch of money,” said Darling.  “It was to come back and lead this team both on and off the field.  I love having the opportunity go out there and compete alongside my teammates.”

Over the past two years, Darling has been able to contribute more and more on the field as the only backup for Sanchez.  He has started 19 games this season, and due to some injuries, was put into the lineup in all three games of the ACC Tournament last week.

“My role has not only just been a clubhouse leader or a vocal leader, but now I’ve been able to go out there and contribute,” said Darling.  “I’ve loved every minute of it.  Every time I go out there, I know I’m going to be a direct influence on the game and whether we go home happy or we go home with a loss.  I love that and being able to work and compete for my teammates.”

The Eagles won two of three games at the league tournament, including victories over nationally-ranked Georgia Tech and Miami, and made their case for the program’s first bid to the NCAA Tournament in 42 years.

“We played at a very high level with high energy, and our defense was good,” said Darling.  “We got some really clutch hits and some opportune times.  We knew after those last two games that we would make the NCAA Tournament.  We knew those two quality wins would put us over the top.”

Boston College will be the No. 3 seed at the NCAA Austin Regional, hosted by No. 1 national seed Texas. 

“We’re excited as ever to be here,” said Darling.  “We would have flown anywhere they told us just to be in a regional.  Texas is probably one of the best traditions in the country, but we feel we deserve to be here and know we’re going to compete with a chance to win this thing.  We’re not down here sightseeing – we’re here to win some ballgames.”

The Eagles will face second-seeded Texas State on May 29 in the first game of regional play at Texas’ UFCU Disch-Falk Field.