Harding to play for EMU Royals

Published 3:10 pm Wednesday, November 20, 2019

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Randolph-Henry High School senior baseball standout Matthew Harding formally announced his decision to play at the next level for Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) during a signing ceremony Thursday, Nov. 14, that drew family, friends and coaches.

“I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time,” Harding said of his signing day. “This isn’t everything, but it was a big part. This is one of the days I’ve been looking forward to next to finally making that decision and going off to the first day in college.”

It was a day that was years in the making, as his father, Mark Harding, noted that he started playing around the age of 4.

“We didn’t know if he would always like baseball, but he did, and so then, he started playing in Dixie Youth and all of that, and then he met (Hampden-Sydney College Baseball Head Coach) Jeff (Kinne) through a camp,” the elder Harding said. “He went to Jeff’s camp when he was 10, and then when they put that little local (HST) Mini-Tigers team together, he called Matthew, because they needed another player, and the whole team was Prince Edward, except they added Matthew.”

After several years playing the sport, Matthew Harding’s mind turned toward playing college ball.

“As far as I can remember, I probably first got my aspiration probably about middle school when I knew that’s what I wanted to do or at least had the dream to do it,” Matthew Harding said.

In addition to EMU, he was considering Ferrum College, Bridgewater College and Marymount University, in addition to Virginia Wesleyan University.

As for why Eastern Mennonite became his ultimate choice, Harding said, “I loved the area of Harrisonburg. I just love that area, and then the head coach of Eastern Mennonite is a first-year coach … He’s young, he’s all about baseball, I love him, he’s great. And I really liked their campus, that’s probably the main thing.”

He knows that EMU Royals coaches will be using him at his signature position, catcher.

“When I get there my first year, their starting catcher will be a senior, so I think I’m the only catcher they’re bringing in with the 2020 class, so I look to maybe split doubleheaders on the weekends with their senior catcher when I get there, and then my goal is to play the other three years — be their starting catcher,” he said.

He indicated not being 100% sure what his major will be, though he expects he will probably end up going with psychology.

Mark Harding, speaking for himself and his wife, Kelli, said of the signing: “It’s a dream of his, so therefore, it’s something he wanted to realize, so it makes us very happy.”