‘He was the best leader we’ve ever had’: Ian Happ left a lasting impact on his Pittsburgh high school
Ian Happ has never forgotten where he comes from.
After a pair of tough losses in Pittsburgh to begin the week, Happ woke up early Wednesday morning and returned to his old high school, Mt. Lebanon in the Pittsburgh area. He spoke to about 80 kids at a youth camp, signing autographs and telling stories — including the time he was ejected from a game in 2019.
Happ’s high school baseball coach, Pat McCloskey, was in charge of the camp and he was gracious enough to hop on the Marquee Sports Network broadcast Wednesday evening for an in-game interview with Taylor McGregor.
Happ had already homered in the game as part of a big 2nd inning and McCloskey told stories of what the Cubs’ star outfielder was like in high school.
McCloskey was first introduced to Happ when his older brother, Chris, was playing in high school. McCloskey thought Chris was the best player he had ever coached until Ian came along.
“He’s not good by accident,” Happ’s former coach said. “It’s all a product of hard work.”
Happ played shortstop for Mt. Lebanon and also served as the team’s closer. McCloskey started to realize during his senior year that Happ had a shot to make it in the pros.
But it wasn’t just what Happ did on the field that impressed his coach.
“He did everything the right way,” McCloskey said. “He was the greatest kid at age 14. He was the best leader we’ve ever had. He totally changed my outlook on coaching in that I could turn over leadership to him. He set an example of hard work that every player since 2012 has been trying to live up to. That’s not cliche.”
Happ’s impact on the school isn’t limited to days like Wednesday. He has been a consistent source of pride for the program.
In spring of 2020 when the season was canceled, Happ reached out to McCloskey to set up a Zoom call with the seniors and spent two hours chatting with the kids.
“Every year, he gives us bats, he gives us batting gloves,” McCloskey said. “He sends us everything. I don’t ask. There’s boxes from Wrigley Field and I’m like, you’re the best, man. I love him. He’s the best.”
Check out the entire interview with McCloskey above.