Adrian Chinnery’s baseball career has been a steady stream of challenges.
In high school, he was passed over by most college coaches and recruiters.
His school of choice, the U.S. Naval Academy, didn’t originally offer him admission.
And, once he got Navy’s attention, he’s had to play through shoulder and elbow injuries.
Yet the kind of fortitude that makes a kid pursue the Naval Academy has carried over to the diamond for Chinnery, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound, right-handed-hitting catcher who has – somehow, some way – become a two-time, first-team All-Patriot Leaguer and the glue of a 19-12 Midshipmen squad.
Not bad for an afterthought.
Chinnery attended John Dickinson High School in Wilmington, Del, but didn’t receive much attention in a state not viewed as a hotbed of baseball talent.
Chinnery had one offer to play baseball — from Wesley College, a Division 3 school in Dover, Del.
He had his heart set on being a Midshipman though. And he wasn’t giving up easily. So, he spent a post-graduate year at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I.
While there, he played baseball and caught the eye of Navy head coach, Paul Kostacopoulos.
Chinnery left such an impression on Kostacopoulos that he was invited to try out as a freshman at the Academy. On the second day of tryouts, Kostacopoulos approached Chinnery and told him he had made the team – not an easy feat for someone who wasn’t recruited.
After that, things took off for the catcher.
About halfway through his freshman campaign, Kostacopoulos once again pulled aside Chinnery.
“He asked me if I would be his guy (behind the plate) for the next four years,” Chinnery said.
It initially shocked Chinnery that he received so much playing time in his first year. He actually had a running joke with his parents about it.
“My parents would always tell me they were coming to watch me play when I wasn’t getting in the lineup,” he said. “And when I was playing, they would tell me they weren’t coming.”
Chinnery’s sophomore season would be one to remember.
He set career highs that still stand. Playing in 54 games and starting 51 of them, Chinnery batted .314, recorded 54 hits and drove in 27 runs.
His efforts earned him First-Team All-Patriot League honors — something he wasn’t expecting. His family wasn’t either.
“When it happened the first time and I told my dad, he thought I was lying to him.”
He wasn’t lying.
Chinnery maintained his honesty by earning the same title the following year, despite undergoing Tommy John surgery for a torn elbow ligament in the previous offseason.
He didn’t miss any action, which really impressed his head coach.
“He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached,” said Kostacopoulos. “He didn’t miss one game for us, playing some over at first base and DH.”
That year, though, he separated his shoulder on three separate occasions.
While the injuries caused him to play in seven fewer games than the previous year, his overall numbers were still pretty good.
He hit above .300, and threw out 50 percent of potential basestealers. Receiving another Patriot League honor, given what he had endured physically, was “truly a blessing the second time around.”
Now a senior, Chinnery is hitting .261 with 19 RBIs while starting 29 of Navy’s 31 games. And he’s a candidate for the 2017 Senior CLASS Award — Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School – that is given to a Division 1 senior that has excelled in areas of community, classroom, character and competition.
It’s not surprising that he was nominated given the respect he commands from his teammates and coaches.
“He’s the same off the field as he is on the field,” sophomore pitcher Noah Song said about Chinnery. “Very high energy, and he’ll never quit on you or the team.”
With roughly half of his senior season completed, Chinnery knows his next step is a lengthy military commitment: Six years in the U.S. Air Force as part of its remote-piloted aircraft division. If he were to be drafted by a big league team this June, he’d be able to play for two summer months before leaving for San Antonio (and, later, New Mexico) for further military responsibilities.
His coach understands the logistics, but thinks Chinnery could play baseball at a high level someday. Once an afterthought, Chinnery has proven he’ll achieve his goals if given a shot.
“I think he’s got a skill set behind the plate that has attracted some interest,” Kostacopoulos said. “He’s going to fly drones, though. His mindset is to serve this country; that’s what he came here for.”
BaltimoreBaseball.com’s Top Performers of the Week
Alex Ross, LHP, Johns Hopkins University
Jr./San Ramon, Calif./De La Salle HS
This marks two straight weeks Ross has been named a top performer. Last week was for a 13-strikeout performance; this week, he struck out 14 and allowed three hits in his lone start against Swarthmore College (Pa.). The 6-foot, 210-pound southpaw threw a complete game shutout against the Garnet, the first such occurrence for the Jays since 2013. His was named Centennial Conference Pitcher of the Week for the first time in his career.
Leland Saile, OF, United States Naval Academy
Sr./ Land O’ Lakes, Fla./Jesuit HS
Saile was named the Patriot League Player of the Week for the second time this season after hitting .500 in five games. The 6-foot, 200-pound outfielder hit four home runs, drove in 10, scored six times and posted a 1.136 slugging percentage. He also became the first Navy player since 2010 to homer twice in a game.
Dan Williams, RHP, Stevenson University
Sophomore/Sicklerville, N.J./Timber Creek HS
Williams threw the second no-hitter in Mustang baseball history Sunday against Albright College. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound righty allowed two base runners on a pair of walks while striking out five batters. He was one of three starting pitchers selected to D3baseball.com’s Team of the Week on Tuesday.
Moments worth mentioning
Two local teams are in Top 25 rankings this week. The University of Maryland Terrapins, who began the season ranked but dropped out after a rough start, are back at No. 24. Johns Hopkins has been ranked for all but one week this year and is currently as high as 13th in one poll. … Our “matchup to watch” last week was Salisbury University at Frostburg State University, a rematch of the 2016 Capital Athletic Conference championship game. Salisbury swept the doubleheader, 6-1 and 9-7… Salisbury played its annual game against the Orioles’ Low-A affiliate, the Delmarva Shorebirds, at Delmarva’s Arthur W. Perdue Stadium on Tuesday. The Shorebirds won the seven-inning scrimmage, 15-1. … Towson was involved in an absolute mind-blower Wednesday, losing 27-14 to Cornell. The Tigers homered four times, had 13 hits and five walks and still lost by 13. Cornell scored six runs in two separate innings and five runs in another.
Matchup to watch
For the second time this season, Coppin State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore will battle in a three-game weekend series. Coppin won two of three in the initial series, outscoring the Hawks, 14-11. The first game of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference matchup is Saturday at 1 p.m. at Joe Cannon Stadium in Hanover.