Joining PU Baseball After Serving in Singapore Navy, Senior Catcher West Battles His Way to Starring Role
WESTERN HERO: Princeton University baseball player Max West takes a cut in recent action. Senior catcher West had three hits in a losing cause as Princeton fell 2-1 to visiting Columbia last Sunday. The Tigers, now 6-18 overall and 3-6 Ivy League, host Seton Hall for a single game on April 10 and then head to Penn for a three-game set this weekend with a doubleheader slated for April 13 and a single game on April 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Max West has traveled an unusual route to stardom for the Princeton University baseball team.
After graduating from the Singapore American School, West served two and a half years as a combat diver and naval officer in the Singapore Navy. He then applied to U.S. colleges and ultimately decided to matriculate to Princeton, arriving in the fall of 2015.
“Initially coming to college as a 21-year-old freshman, I was older than everyone else and felt a little out of place,” said West.
“That has made my college experience much more valuable. I was definitely more mature at 21 than I was at 18. Spending that time back home in the military has allowed me to get the most out of this experience here at Princeton.”
West soon found a home with the Tiger baseball program. “I reached out to coach [Scott] Bradley who was kind enough to give me a chance to walk on to the team,” said West, a 6’1, 200-pound senior catcher. “Baseball has been the highlight of my Princeton experience; it has been the most fun thing I do.”
Last Sunday, West didn’t have so much fun as Princeton fell to Columbia 2-1, a day after making a six-run rally in the eighth inning to pull out an 8-6 win over the Lions.
“It was a big win for us yesterday and we were going to do our best to keep that momentum going and bring that forward today,” said West, who went 3-for-4 in the loss and extended his hitting streak to nine as the Tigers fell to 6-18 overall and 3-6 Ivy League.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t quite translate. I thought overall we played pretty well. We just couldn’t do a job when we needed to.”
Coming off a 2018 season which saw him hit .234 in taking over the starting catcher role for the Tigers, West has been getting the job done with aplomb in his final campaign. He now leads Princeton in batting average (.343) and RBIs (16).
“It is really just not over thinking it, trying to see the ball big and put a good swing on the ball, one that is in the zone,” said West in assessing his progress this spring.
“It is trusting myself and trusting the work I have put in and hopefully those results keep translating. That experience has been huge; it is definitely something that helps moving forward and helps me perform to the best of my ability.”
Working with junior pitcher Andrew Gnazzo, the hard luck loser on Sunday as he threw the first complete game of his career, getting eight strikeouts and scattering 11 hits, has been a pleasure for West.
“He is an absolute competitor,” said West. “Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he will go out there and will still give you 100 percent. He works his tail off for us and we really appreciate that. We really needed to get him one today and we just didn’t do it.”
With Princeton tied for sixth in the Ivy standings and 12 league games remaining, the Tigers have some work to do in order to get into the top two and earn a spot in the league championship series.
“We have every piece of the puzzle that we need to be a winning team,” said West. He will look to keep up his hot hitting as Princeton hosts Seton Hall for a single game on April 10 and then heads to Penn for a three-game set this weekend with a doubleheader slated for April 13 and a single game on April 14.
“In these next couple of weeks, we are just going to have to put it all together. We just have to get on a roll and do what we can do. It is about seeing if we can translate our ability to wins on the ball field. Hopefully that will start sooner than later.”