When BYU baseball coach Mike Littlewood was recruiting Andrew Pintar out of Spanish Fork High, he doubted Pintar’s ability as a hitter.
“We knew he could play defense,” Littlewood recalled, “but we didn’t know if he could hit.”
The Cougars brought Pintar aboard as a pitcher and an infielder. He arrived as a walk-on.
Now, Pintar, known as “Penny,” not only has earned a scholarship, but he’s also proven that, yes, he can hit.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound freshman leads the team with a .329 batting average and a team-high .525 slugging percentage. Pintar has collected nine doubles, two triples, six home runs and 25 RBI.
In 21 at-bats over four games last week, Pintar belted 10 hits, including three homers. He drove in eight runs and scored seven times.
- BYU’s Andrew Pintar makes a throw during game against Portland in Provo, Utah. BYU Photo
- BYU’s Andrew Pintar signals a popup during games against Portland in Provo, Utah. BYU Photo
- BYU’s Andrew Pintar at the plate vs. Arizona State, in Provo, Utah. Joey Garrison, BYU Photo
- BYU’s Andrew Pintar prepares for a plate appearance vs. Saint Marys on May 1, 2021, in Provo, Utah. Rebeca Fuentes, BYU Photo
For his efforts, Pintar was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Week, and he was also honored by Collegiate Baseball as one of its National Players of the Week.
“What he’s doing now, I don’t think any of us would have foreseen, just how tough of an out that he is,” Littlewood said. “If he’s on the other team, he’s scary to face. I really wouldn’t have thought that out of him. He can leave the yard. Two strikes, he’s going to hit the ball the other way. He’s just a really, really tough out.
“He probably hit eight balls with 100-plus exit (velocity) in San Diego. Every ball he hits is just squared up. It’s impressive to see,” Littlewood continued. “The biggest change is, last year and even into this past fall and early on in our first couple of series, he would swing at curve balls that would bounce in front of the plate or he would swing and miss. He had a little bit of a weird angle on his swing. Now, if you leave a curve ball up, he’s just going to hammer it. He very seldom will swing at bad pitches.”
So how did Pintar transform himself from walk-on to star? The answer has a lot to do about his work ethic.
“His work ethic was so great that every day after practice, he’s working on his swing and he still does it,” Littlewood said. “We swept Saint Mary’s and beat Arizona State and after every game, he’s working in the tunnel on his swing, which is just incredible.”
For Pintar, his hitting prowess is a product of both his attitude and his actions.
“I have gone about it like I’ve got a chip on my shoulder and something to prove. I knew where I could be. I knew what type of player I was. I just wanted to be able to show that. I constantly worked and worked. I wanted to get there,” he said. “Luckily, (coach Littlewood) gave me an opportunity to come here to BYU. I took that opportunity and I was just happy to be here and I wanted to play every day — play like I had nothing to lose. That’s what I did. I earned my spot early, which was my first goal. Then I wanted to earn a scholarship. I kept working and working and, luckily, I was able to.”
Pintar’s work ethic was cultivated on his family’s farm, where for years he’s spent considerable time working. His family lives on 80 acres in Lake Shore, which includes 35 head of cattle. There are hay and alfalfa fields on the farm, and Pintar works hauling and baling hay, among other chores.
“We’re doing it day-in and day-out,” Pintar said. “If I’m not at the baseball field, I’m usually with my family or working on the farm somewhere. That’s where I got my work ethic and that’s translated into sports. That’s the only way I know how to go about things. If something’s not going right, or if I want to achieve something, that’s the only way I know how to do it — by putting in the work.”
Littlewood learned about Pintar’s burning desire to improve early on.
“What we did see was his incredible work ethic and we saw incremental improvement in every single area of his game — base running, fielding, accurate throws,” he said. “He’s a kid that doesn’t take one play off, whether it’s at practice taking ground balls or taking swings. He just does everything 100% every time you see him. I’ve literally never seen him take one play off in two years.”
Pintar has honed his swing with BYU hitting coach Trent Pratt and on his own.
“Coach Pratt’s been a great help,” Pintar said. “We’ve spent a lot of time in the batting cages figuring out my swing and what’s comfortable for me. Swings, swings, swings is what makes things come together. I’ve tried to work as hard as I can. It’s finally showing some results.”
Littlewood remembers that Pintar wasn’t very strong in high school, though Pintar was the 2019 MVP at the Utah High School 4A All-Star Game at Lindquist Field.
“In my first couple of years of high school, I was always undersized,” Pintar said. “I felt like I had to put in more work.”
Since arriving at BYU, Pintar has grown a couple of inches and added 25 pounds and muscle to his frame.
“He’s a strong, strong kid now. He’s got a big, athletic frame. But in high school, he was kind of a couldn’t-hit-it-out-of-the-infield type of guy. He was one of those guys that just tried to put the ball in play,” Littlewood said. “Now, you look at him facing San Diego last weekend. They were afraid to throw him strikes. That’s the kind of hitter he’s transformed himself into. He’s stepped up and become one of the best hitters in our league. I attribute that to his work with coach Pratt and his work on his own, constantly working and tweaking his swing until he gets it perfect.”
“I’ve gotten bigger. It’s helped me. When I was smaller, I had to swing as hard as I could,” Pintar said. “Now that I’ve gotten bigger, it’s helped me with my swing. I already have that power. I can be smoother with my swing. That’s one thing I’ve worked on with Pratt, being smoother with my swing and being more relaxed.”
Littlewood was thrilled to see Pintar earn both WCC and national recognition.
“It’s awesome. I’m really happy for him. He’s a coach’s dream. There’s only so much you can do as a coaching staff to coach these guys,” he said. “Coach Pratt gets only 20 minutes with him in the mornings because we’re so limited by hours. If you look at the team setting, there’s not a lot of tweaking you can do. These guys have to get a lot of their work done on their own.”
Pintar arrived in Provo as a walk-on and played in 15 games during truncated 2020 campaign. Littlewood awarded him a scholarship last fall.
“He earned it. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that,” Littlewood said. “Tremendous work ethic. He’s a success story, big time.”
For Pintar, receiving a scholarship was “a cool moment,” but he wasn’t about to become complacent.
“Honestly, I liked playing as a walk-on because I had the mentality that I had nothing to lose,” Pintar said. “When I got that scholarship, I wanted to keep that mentality because that’s what drives me and pushes me to become better every day. I always talk about being 1% better every day. It was a cool moment when he told me that. All the hard work had finally paid off. But I didn’t didn’t want to stop there. I wanted to keep going.”
Littlewood believes Pintar will keep going all the way to the professional level.
“I see him as a pro prospect, there’s no doubt about it. When he was pitching, he was 90-92 (mph) off the mound. He could easily play third base. He’s played a really good shortstop for us as well with his arm strength,” he said. “He’s a pretty valuable guy. At the pro level, he could play any one of the infield spots. He’s a guy that uses all of the field and he has what we call ‘sneaky power.’ He can run. He could be a five-tool player. I think he’s pretty close to that right now, now that his power is developing. Honestly, the sky’s the limit for him.”
Pintar’s success is something that Littlewood holds up as a way to motivate his players.
“For me, it’s really gratifying because you can always go back and use him as an example. Andrew Pintar was a walk-on,” he said. “He worked so hard that he did this and he did this. And he earned himself a starting spot. It’s gratifying to tell other players that hard work pays off if you do the right things.”