Class of 2020: Making the most of the opportunity

In baseball, every day is an opportunity. 

Each time the team heads out onto the field, the players have the chance to put previous failures or successes behind them and focus on the game at hand. Yesterday’s loss, last week’s epic win—they matter, but not in this moment. 

This moment’s all about this game and what it takes to succeed on this field. 

For Trevecca senior John O’Dwyer, that’s a baseball philosophy that bleeds over into his daily life. When COVID-19 effectively ended his senior season—the kid who’s played baseball since he was 12 years old was having a fantastic year—O’Dwyer took stock. 

“I learned I needed to feel disappointed,” he said. “But at the end of the day, you can’t sulk forever. You get in a good routine for what’s normal and try to get better at something every day.”   

For O’Dwyer, that getting better looks like training—“I go to a park and do a workout. If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to do it”—and finishing up his senior year through remote learning. It also means prepping to start his master’s degree at Trevecca, a move that simultaneously prepares O’Dwyer for his future and allows him to take advantage of his remaining athletic eligibility. 

He’s quick to point out that his experience on the field often helps inform his success off the field. 

“Baseball really helps you in so many aspects,” he said. “But playing a sport in college gives you so many extra bonuses. You’re managing your time—you have to plan it or you will crumble. You need consistency on and off the field. There’s no way you can play the game without being disciplined.” 

Born in Ukraine, John and his twin brother, Andrew, were adopted by Alice and Paschal O'Dwyer when they were just about two years old. They grew up in the Nashville area and made a name for themselves on the baseball field at Father Ryan. 

After high school graduation, John and Andrew headed to Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland, to play Division I baseball. They transferred to Columbia State Community College for their sophomore year, ready for something closer to home and yearning for a team experience that felt a little more like family. 

“If I could give advice to younger players, it would be to go somewhere where you know [people] care for you,” John said. “That’s where you’re going to grow.” 

After their sophomore year, Andrew moved on to Tennessee Tech University, becoming part of the Golden Eagles team that made a storied run for the College World Series before falling to Texas in a 2018 Super Regional. 

John wasn’t quite ready to leave baseball behind, but he also says he wasn’t “getting a lot of looks out of junior college.” He’d heard about Trevecca and the baseball program and was determined to get a tryout. 

“I thought baseball might be over for me, but I got my coach [at Columbia State Community College] to set up a workout with Trevecca. The tryout went well, and Coach Ryan Schmalz invited me to join the team. 

“It’s been the best baseball of my college career,” he continued. “Coach Schmalz, the coaching staff, Mark Elliott (the athletic director) and everyone involved—they’ve all been a huge blessing in my and my family’s lives.” 

For O’Dwyer, the joy he’s found at Trevecca isn’t just wrapped up in what happens on the field. It’s centered on the experiences and the people who’ve shaped him into a “better man.” 

“Coach Schmalz has made me into a better man—an athlete, yeah, but he cares about his guys,” O’Dwyer said. “He wants to win, but he takes the initiative to make sure we’re better people at the end of the day rather than just better baseball players.” 

As he reflects on his final season as an undergraduate, O’Dwyer is quick to give credit where credit is due. To his brother, mom, and grandmother: “If they weren’t in my life, I wouldn’t have anything.” 

To his baseball mentor, Jeff Schuetter, who O’Dwyer says “started it all” and whom he thanks for shaping him as a baseball player from an early age. 

To the Trevecca baseball coaching staff and Assistant Coach Chase Sain in particular: “ He really changed me as a player and a hitter.” 

And to Chandler Miller, a teammate O’Dwyer says he always knew “had my back.” 

One of the greatest lessons baseball has taught O’Dwyer, though, is to take advantage of the opportunities he’s given. The game has sharpened his determination and taught him discipline. 

More than anything, he’s grateful for the opportunity to display that grit and persistence at Trevecca for one more season—both on and off the field.


Media contact: Mandy Crow, mmcrow@trevecca.edu, 615-248-1695