LIMA — Locos right-hander Justin McCalvin (Kennesaw State) collected his uniform and scanned Simmons Field during batting practice on Thursday.
One look around and he must have wondered if he was in the right place.
The Locos veteran didn’t recognize anyone from last year.
“It’s awesome (to be back),” he said. “I’m excited. But I’m the only one who’s returning.”
McCalvin was indeed in the right place.
Last year’s 6-foot closer for the Locos did have familiarity with Locos’ pitchers Will Solomon and Travis Bergen and outfielder Alex Liquori, who all play with him at Kennesaw State.
McCalvin was the best closer in the Great Lakes Collegiate League last year when he helped the Locos to a share of first place with a 24-15 record. The all-GLCL reliever went 1-1 with a 0.38 ERA and six saves. In 24 innings, he struck out 31 and walked six. He gave up only one run all summer.
Last summer helped earn McCalvin a spot on a roster in the prestigious Cape Cod League this summer. The Locos figured they would never see him again.
Then, he signed with the Locos on Thursday and threw 1 2/3 innings of shutout relief with three strikeouts that night against Grand Lake.
“The team (Bourne) I was supposed to go to (in the Cape) thought I was going to get drafted this year, so they gave my spot away to another guy,” McCalvin said. “Then, I didn’t get drafted because I was asking for a lot of money. So when they gave my spot away, I had nowhere else to go.”
McCalvin quickly put in a call to Locos general manager Steve Meyer and he was on his way from his home in Leesburg, Ga., to Ohio.
The question is how long will he remain with the Locos, who are off to a 3-3 start.
“We’ll find out this weekend,” McCalvin said. “My adviser is tying to work out something with another team (in the Cape Cod League). We’ll see. … There’s a good chance I’ll stick around here because a lot of teams are full in the Cape.
“I loved it here, so that’s why I came back. I was coming to visit, anyway.”
McCalvin compiled a 1-1 mark with a 1.80 ERA and three saves at Kennesaw State this spring. In 35 innings, he struck out 43 and walked 15. Opponents hit .211 against him.
“I struggled my freshman year, then I was switching slots, I went sidearm during last year,” McCalvin said. “Coming here, I did really well and got my confidence and my velo (velocity) came back. I finally received attention from the scouts for the draft because of Lima. It was a huge confidence booster last year.”
A key was his sidearm delivery, both with his high-80s, low-90s fastball and nose-diving slider. It started at Kennesaw State when his velocity was dropping because of hand surgery he had in high school.
“Coach asked me if I wanted to drop down and go sidearm and see what happened,” McCalvin said. “It worked out. … So last spring I dropped down. Finding the slider throwing sidearm was awesome here last summer. Now I have a change-up.”
His fingers on his right hand still have limitations of movement from a freak accident and the surgery. But he said his fingers don’t hinder him when he’s pitching.
“It’s pretty crazy. I have feeling, but I can’t put them together,” he said.
The Locos are happy to have a familiar face back from a year ago, no matter how long he’s here.