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Former Pirate Pays Visit to Tyler

McKenry, MetaNu helping students with mental wellness

Photo by Cody Tomer Former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Michael McKenry plays catch with Tyler Consolidated catcher Zade Billings before Monday’s game against Paden City.

SISTERSVILLE — The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone in one way or another.

For many it was mental, especially children who could not see their friends, attend school in person or play sports.

Former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Michael McKenry is doing his part to help kids, student athletes and anyone else who feels the negative mental impacts of the pandemic and all other hardships that life may throw their way.

McKenry is a part of the MetaNu team, a program that takes a positive and proactive approach to mental health by combining mental wellness and performance psychology, where he works with founder Vincent Duffy, Jaclyn McKenry and former Pirates outfielder Alex Presley.

On Monday, McKenry and the rest of the MetaNu team visited Tyler Consolidated before the Silver Knights’ baseball game with Paden City, where McKenry and Duffy talked mental wellness and baseball with the Tyler baseball team.

“It’s sad what has happened over the last year and a half,” McKenry said. “It’s really the isolation that has hurt kids. I told the kids (Monday), if God forbid this happens again, to use that time to their advantage and to look for the shining light in the crack of the terrible situation and run towards it. Sometimes life is tough and you have to figure out how to adapt and overcome.”

Tyler Consolidated teacher Mark Winters played collegiate basketball with Duffy’s brother at Wheeling Jesuit and contacted Duffy about making the trip to Tyler and the MetaNu team was happy to accept the invitation.

“COVID affected not just kids but the whole community,” Duffy said. “Especially small towns like this and where I’m from, where sports are everything. They really had nothing to rally behind or look forward to.

“What we are doing at MetaNu is a proactive approach to mental wellness. Two things I built the program around are self reflection and emotional accountability.

“How do you take emotional accountability and how do you self reflect what is going on in your life to move forward. We put together tools and techniques for our program that are just giving suggestions. For instance, if something is not feeling right, here is a tool that I can do or something that can spark a thought that will challenge my thinking from ‘I’m having a bad day’ to ‘I’m actually not having that bad of a day, it’s actually a pretty good day.’

“That’s kind of my life story. I played baseball at Clarion University and yips ended my career but it was a blessing in disguise because it led me to all of this.”

Much like Duffy, it was McKenry’s dream to play professional baseball, but now he feels he has found what he was meant to do.

“I think it’s what I’m called to do,” McKenry said. “God gives you a platform for a reason and I think God wants me to use that platform in a sense of ‘how many people can you help.’ It’s a driver. Some people are driven by money and fame but my drivers are care, serving and love.

“I met Vinny awhile back and it was something we were both passionate about. We started thinking about the athletic side of it but then we wanted to focus on the human being side more. We wanted to hit home and ask ‘where are you emotionally and mentally?’ Through the program you can identify something to refer back to. Like, ‘why was I down three weeks ago?’ Then you can look and say ‘oh yeah that’s why’ and maybe you can combat it moving forward through tools and personal reflection.”

McKenry also took the time to help Tyler hitters in the batting cage and spent a good amount of time with freshman catcher Zade Billings, helping to strengthen his throw to second.

Tyler defeated Paden City 9-3 for its 14th straight win following McKenry’s visit.

“To have someone with that much knowledge come down here and talk to the kids was great,” Tyler coach Rob Jones said. “That is someone they can look up to that has shown them he cares about them. Having him and Vince here was a great thing for them.”

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