Senior Brian Vance is in his second season as Loyola’s starting catcher. He’s one of the team’s top offensive and defensive players. Vance has committed to play at St. Joseph’s University, a Division I program that competes in the Atlantic 10.

Maroon & Gold: How long have you played baseball? How long have you been a catcher?

Brian Vance: I started probably when I was 5 years old with Tee Ball. I played every position throughout grade school at St. Mary of the Woods. My freshman year at Loyola I was primarily a pitcher. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I switched to catcher, which I first started playing in fifth grade. Loyola’s coaches saw that I had a good bat and a good arm, so they put me at catcher. I love it. Being a former pitcher, I know how important is to have a good catcher. The pitcher needs a catcher who can work for him, who can handle his stuff. It’s frustrating when you don’t have that.

M&G: Loyola head coach Nick Bridich told me you have one of the best attitudes about the game since he’s been coaching. Where did you get your love of the sport?

BV: From just playing so much from such a young age. I loved playing catch in the backyard with my dad [Frank Vance]. He’s a passionate guy, and I have taken his energy and made it my own. I want to be remembered for how I played the game. I always tell the guys you prepare like a man, but you play like a boy. I like having fun with it.

M&G: What are your strengths as a catcher?

BV: It’s my arm. Throwing comes naturally to me. It’s not even something I think about. My flexibility is also something I consider a strength. I don’t know how I got so flexible, but it allows me to get down low and give a good target. I also can get up quickly to throw runners out. My blocking skills have improved every year.

M&G: Do you ever talk to opposing batters? If so, what do you say?

BV: I do sometimes, especially when I know the guy. It’s always funny to hear batters complain about a call they didn’t get. I’m like, “Buddy, look, the ball is right here.” I have a big mouth on the field, but I try not to be personal with other players. Sometimes, it’s fun to joke around like that.

M&G: Is this one of the best pitching and defensive teams you’ve been on at Loyola?

BV: Absolutely. We have so much talent. Our coaches have been so good about the mental part of the game with our pitchers. The pitchers trust themselves to throw strikes. In four of our first five games, I would say we have pitched phenomenally. They understand that every pitch matters. Our defense is great. Our infield is the best in Illinois. It’s great watching them play. They pick up everything around them consistently. Coach Bridich tells us that pitching and defense will always win you games. If our pitchers get balls rolling to our infielders, we are hard to beat. All the mental preparation is paying off for us.

M&G: You’re one of three seniors and four players (senior shortstop Ryan Lin-Peistrup, senior third baseman Jack Blindt, junior pitcher Ben Wagner) who went to St. Mary of the Woods in Chicago. Only Glenview’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help has more graduates on the team. What’s it like playing with your childhood friends?

BV: It’s so cool. When I was a freshman, there were six of us from St. Mary of the Woods. By sophomore year, it was the three of us. We have such good chemistry, and we are great friends. It’s pretty cool that St. Mary of the Woods kids make up more than half of our infield. Also, one of the reasons I wear No. 9 is because of Hank Schueler [a St. Mary of the Woods graduate who died in 2007 and big baseball fan].

M&G: Why did you choose St. Joseph’s as the place where you will continue your baseball career?

BV: Funny story. I was all set on going to Denison, but my mom [Maureen Vance] wanted me to attend one more camp before I made my decision. I went to one at St. Joseph’s in October, and I did really well. Not long after that, I got a call from the coaching staff telling me I could be the guy next year, almost an everyday player. That’s what I’ve wanted to do my whole life. Even though I fought my mom at first, I am so thankful she made me keep my options open. It’s going to change my life.

Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola