The University of Richmond welcomes students from all over the country and the world. The University definitely has a big appeal and draw from the northeast quadrant of the United States. Freshman Aaron Winkler falls into that category, as the New York native had heard of Richmond on several occasions.
"I heard the Richmond name a lot around my high school, it's definitely a popular school around my area," he said.
So it did not take Winkler long to know he could make Richmond home for the next four years as the University combined academics and the sport he loves.
"I wanted to go to a school where I could take advantage of being at a top academic school while also being able to play baseball, so it was a good fit," he said.
The game is in his blood as Winkler has been around the game for as long as he can remember. When he was about four years old, living in Long Island, he remembers his dad throwing him wiffle balls and he would try to hit it over the trees. He also has a family tie to the game as his dad was a pitcher when he was growing up, and he's been able to offer him some tips along the way.
"Most of the stuff that I know, I learned from him," Winkler said.
Winkler has not always found his place on the mound. It wasn't until his sophomore year in high school that he moved from the field into a pitching role.
Each fall, the incoming freshmen (and transfer) baseball players are given a couple weeks to work out and practice with the team. The transition proves to be fundamental in the transition for those freshmen as they learn the difference in the game from the high school to the collegiate level.
"In high school, I guess you would say I was considered more of a power pitcher, and here I'm the opposite," Winkler said. "Also in high school I could make mistakes and it wouldn't really matter because maybe only one or two guys could really take advantage of it. Now if I were to make a mistake, literally every single person would have a double or a home run. It's a lot different."
Not only is there an adjustment period on the athletic side, but there is a transition academically as well and learning the demands of being a student-athlete.
"Honestly it's just planning out when I'm going to do my homework, and prioritizing what needs to be done first and what needs the most attention," he said. "It was tough in the beginning because I didn't know many of my teachers, but I was encouraged by Courtney [Hughes] to go talk to them, and that really helped me a lot. It was great to get to know them and figure out exactly what they were looking for rather than me try to guess what they wanted."
Winker and the Spiders kick off their first practice of the spring on Friday (January 27) before opening the season with defending national champion, Coastal Carolina on February 17.
"I'm looking forward to that first game and beating Coastal Carolina," Winkler laughed. "They are the national champions, why not. I'm just really excited to see how we play against the best teams - we have Coastal, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Texas - it's going to be fun to see how we compare to those teams."