Virginia Tech is getting another former Millbrook High School baseball star.
After playing four years as an outfielder at James Madison University, Conor Hartigan will attend Virginia Tech as a graduate student in 2021-22 and play for the Hokies of the Atlantic Coast Conference next spring.
Hartigan’s fellow 2017 Millbrook graduate Anthony Simonelli was recently drafted by the Kansas City Royals out of Virginia Tech. Simonelli had a stellar two-year career with the Hokies after transferring there for the 2019-20 school year from St. Johns River State College in Florida.
In a phone interview on Thursday, Hartigan said he chose to continue his career at Virginia Tech because it made the most sense for him academically and athletically. Hartigan is able to play a fifth year because the disruptions created by COVID-19 prompted the NCAA to grant all Division I athletes an extra year of eligibility.
Academically, Hartigan will take part in Virginia Tech’s one-year instructional technology program, which JMU doesn’t offer.
“It hits all the angles,” Hartigan said. “It has a general feel to it, which is why I picked it. At JMU, there really weren’t any grad programs that made sense for me.”
Athletically, there were a lot of reasons Virginia Tech made sense to Hartigan.
“Playing in the SEC or ACC is pretty much a step away from pro ball, if not on the same level as it,” Hartigan said.
Hartigan — who entered the transfer portal about a month ago — was also interested in Virginia Tech (27-25 overall, 16-20 ACC last year) because of assistant coach Kurt Elbin, who recruited Hartigan in high school when Elbin was at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“We had a lot of conversations in high school, and I guess he kind of kept up with me through college,” Hartigan said. “Once I hit the portal, he gave me a call, so it was nice hearing from him again.”
Hartigan said he committed to Virginia Tech about a week after he entered the transfer portal. He said there were a lot of Colonial Athletic Association schools that contacted him, but Hartigan never considered them. Coastal Carolina of the Sun Belt Conference was the only other school he seriously considered.
“I couldn’t have that on my conscious transferring to a school in the same conference [as JMU], helping them win,” Hartigan said.
JMU went only 11-17 (6-9 CAA) this year, but Hartigan did his part to help the Dukes succeed. He had career-highs in games played (28), starts (27), at-bats (118), hits (43, previous best, 25), batting average (.364, previous best, .280), home runs (5), RBIs (24, previous best, 11), slugging percentage (.576, previous best, .433) and on-base percentage (.414, previous best, .383).
“Having a better approach at the plate has helped out a lot,” Hartigan said. “Being able to swing at balls that I can handle, keeping it nice and easy, letting the natural power I have work for itself, and staying on the barrel as much as possible.
“Just simplifying things, having fun and not putting pressure on myself has helped a lot. I used to be in my head a lot. When you overanalyze things, that’s when things go wrong.”
Hartigan has not been happy with how he’s played in the Valley Baseball League for the Harrisonburg Turks this summer, however. He has three home runs and 16 RBIs but is batting only .220 (22 for 100).
Hartigan said his performance this summer is why he definitely thinks he needs a change of scenery.
“I’m having fun and getting my swings in, but I’m getting kind of worn out [from playing so much this year],” Hartigan said. “I’ve been in Harrisonburg for so long now, and I’m ready [for a change].”
If things turn out well, maybe Hartigan can experience getting a shot at professional baseball like Simonelli.
“Anthony’s one of my best friends,” Hartigan said. “Being able to watch him on the journey that he’s gone through, it’s been awesome. He had an opportunity to showcase himself and shine with Tech, and that’s exactly what he did. He got drafted in the 16th round, and it’s a blessing to see that. I hope the same thing happens for me one day.”