WPIAL alumni Ian Happ, LaVar Arrington pass on valuable, virtual advice to alma maters

Tuesday, May 19, 2020 | 4:25 PM

Mt. Lebanon baseball coach Pat McCloskey was exchanging texts back and forth with a former player on a random Monday night.

Out of the blue, that former player, who just happened to be Chicago Cubs utility man Ian Happ, asked if the longtime Blue Devils coach could set up a call with the 10 seniors on the baseball team who had missed out on their senior season.

“It’s like everything Ian does for our program. It was 100% driven by him and his own generosity,” McCloskey said. “I talk to him pretty much every day, and we were just texting meaningless stuff, kind of joking back and forth, and all of a sudden he just said he’d like to do a video call with the seniors.”

A few days later, the seniors from the Mt. Lebanon baseball team submitted questions and then jumped on a Google Meet call with the 25-year-old.

Over the next hour, Happ told stories about his journey through baseball and answered any questions that the players had. But one story that Happ told held a little more importance for McCloskey than the others.

It was the story of how Happ was sent down to the minors at the beginning of the 2019 season after hitting .233 with 15 home runs and 44 RBIs in 142 games the year before.

“That was the most important thing that I wanted the kids to hear,” McCloskey said. “We’re all going to go on to do something else in life other than baseball, so how do you deal with a situation that is kind of tough. He was very candid with how he handled that and what lessons he learned from it. I thought it was a great story about personal growth he shared with the kids.”

This isn’t the first time that Happ has given back to his alma mater. McCloskey said that in the past, Happ has helped out the program with batting gloves, bats, shoes. After their most recent conversation, Happ gave the Mt. Lebanon baseball seniors an Under Armour gift package.

“It’s meaningful, the stuff that he gives the kids and I guess the best thing anybody can give is time, and for him to be willing to do that I thought was really cool,” McCloskey said.

Happ isn’t the only former WPIAL star who is dropping in on Zoom calls to give high school athletes advice. Former North Hills standout LaVar Arrington just did the same for the Indians during a recent position group call.

The former USA Today Pennsylvania Player of the year dropped in on a linebacker and defensive linemen call and gave the players some sage advice, according to North Hills coach Pat Carey.

“He gave them advice on how to attack blockers and what he looked for,” Carey said. “When you hear somebody who has played at the level that he’s played and the detail that those guys put into it, I think our guys gained a lot from it. I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from both players and parents.”

The football aspect of Arrington’s advice wasn’t even the most important part, Carey said. The Butkus Award winner spoke about how North Hills and Pittsburgh have always been an integral part of his life and why that’s important for the players.

“He spoke a lot about how important North Hills was to him,” Carey said. “They were the people and the coaches that shaped his life and the work ethic of the players that came before him. He played on the 1993 state championship team led by a whole lot of great players.

“He was just a freshman at the time, so he talked about that experience, about growing up and the importance that North Hills and Pittsburgh hold for him.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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