Over the past four years, the baseball career of Trenton Messer has unfolded on the diamond at Owen High School.
The next four years will play out across the Swannanoa Valley on Newell Field at Montreat College.
Messer, surrounded by family and friends in the lower level of McAllister Gymnasium, officially signed to play for the Cavaliers on July 30.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” he said of the event.
Messer, a two-sport athlete at Owen, played center for the Warhorse football team during his two-year varsity career and was the catcher for the Owen baseball team. He also logged innings at third base and on the mound.
“I’ve been playing baseball since I was 3,” he said. “I love the game.”
That passion fueled a desire to improve throughout his Warhorse career, according to Owen baseball coach Anthony Lee.
"He is someone who excelled in high school sports, partly because he is so knowledgeable about the game, and that's the case with baseball and football," Lee said. "He always knows how to put himself in position to make himself successful."
Those characteristics led Lee to approach Messer about moving from third base to catcher a few seasons ago.
"So much stuff on the field starts with the catcher and Trenton is a student of the game," he said. "He also possesses an extraordinary work ethic."
As a freshman, Messer struggled at the plate. By the end of his senior season he led the team with a .375 average on his way to being named the MVP for the Warhorses.
"That's a testament to how hard he works," Lee said. "Hitting was a weakness for him early on and he never stopped working on it."
He also developed into a "very good defensive catcher" over the course of his high school career, Lee added.
"He does a great job blocking balls and (Montreat College head coach Jason Beck) will like that about him," he said. "He hardly had any errors behind the plate last year."
Playing at the college level has long been a goal for Messer, who felt that Montreat was a perfect fit.
"It's close to home, and I really like having the opportunity to go to college and play ball nearby," he said. "I just want to come in here and be a person the team can rely on to do my job every single day."
Those words are music to the ears of Beck, who is entering his fourth season at the helm of the Cavaliers.
"It's really hard to teach work ethic," Beck said. "So when we see a kid who is willing to do what he's supposed to do by putting in the hard work and earning his spot, we're always excited to bring him in."
Beck became aware of Messer through a showcase hosted by Montreat two years ago.
"He was young and a little raw at the time," Beck said. "We kept him on our radar and every time he came back we saw progression. We knew he wanted to stay close to home and his work ethic was evident through how much better he got over time."
Messer is projected to play catcher on Montreat's developmental squad next season.
"Our developmental team plays top 25 junior college programs," Beck said. "What we want to do is get Trenton as much playing time as possible so he can continue to grow as a player."
Lee expects his former player will do just that.
"Trenton is pretty athletic, from a baseball standpoint," he said. "He's not going to be the fastest or strongest player on the team, but he's quick behind the plate and he has the potential to keep getting better."
Messer expressed appreciation for his high school coach.
"When he asked me if I wanted to switch to catcher, I'd never really played the position much in the past, but I told him 'sure, coach,'" he said. "And now I'm going to college to play catcher, so I owe him a lot."
Lee also described Messer as a player who had a great relationship with his teammates. Around a half dozen former Owen teammates came to Montreat to watch him sign with the program.
"Trenton worked hard for this," said former Owen multi-sport standout Brian Bartlett. "I know he's going to work hard for this program and keep getting better."
The Cavs finished the 2019 season with a 25-28 record and an 8-19 mark in the Appalachian Athletic Conference.