It’s easy to tell when Christian Fedko is up to bat for UConn baseball. While most players pick rap, pop or classic rock for their walk-up song, Fedko does something different. He uses a Christian rock song: Deliverer by Matt Maher. It’s not something most ballplayers would do. But Fedko isn’t like most ballplayers.
In fact, Fedko isn’t just a ballplayer. He’s far from it. While baseball plays a big role for him, it’s not everything. For Fedko, there are three driving forces in his life: Baseball, family, faith.
Once the college baseball season ends, most players go off to play in various summer leagues throughout the country. Fedko planned to do the same thing until UConn’s coaches approached him with a different idea: They wanted Fedko to stay on campus during the summer to work on his agility and strength.
“We felt for him, (the summer) was to get his body in better shape, get strong so he could endure an entire season,” assistant coach Jeff Hourigan said. “That was the main goal to get the body ready, get the quickness up.”
Fedko agreed and passed on summer ball. Once the fall season came around, the sophomore had a better physical base to work with, allowing him to turn most of his focus to improving his craft.
Despite winning American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, Fedko only hit .255 with a .309 on-base percentage. Those numbers aren’t bad for a freshman, but his approach at the plate left a lot to be desired.
“Last year, he would get himself out a lot,” Hourigan said. “I never want to take the aggression out of a hitter but I want them to understand the strike zone.”
So Fedko and Hourigan worked on tracking pitches, building discipline and “embracing the walk,” as the coach put it. Not even two-thirds of the way through this season, the results jump off the page for Fedko. After drawing four walks as a freshman, Fedko leads the team with 33 — more than any Husky from last season. His batting average is up to .295 with a .463 on-base percentage.
That type of progress is something coaches hope to see over the span of a few years, not a single offseason. But Fedko is unique. While many players wilt under criticism, the infielder embraces it.
“It’s not easy for an 18-22 year old to take criticism and understand we’re trying to make them better but Christian does that so well, it allows me to pick things apart more,” assistant coach Jeff Hourigan said. “Some other guys when they’re struggling are a little more sensitive and you don’t want to destroy their psyche but you also want to make an adjustment. Christian will never get that way so he can have the best game in the world and he can have one bad at-bat and I can talk about that bad at-bat with him and it won’t defeat him.”
In fact, Fedko doesn’t just take coaching, he demands it.
“He always wants something to work on and that’s what really good players do, they’re never satisfied,” Hourigan said. “So he challenges me to make sure I’m watching the video, I’m taking the notes — which I have to do with every player — but he makes me a better coach because of the way he approaches the game.”
Part of that ability to take the criticism comes from his strong self-confidence and swagger that few players — let along underclassmen — have. It’s the style of play that can rub opponents the wrong way but endear him to teammates.
The best example of it came last season in the NCAA Tournament in a win-or-go-home game against Coastal Carolina. In the eight inning, Fedko hit a go-ahead home run that gave UConn the lead for good. It was his first career home run but the then-freshman bat-flipped like it was his 100th homer.
“That’s one thing, as a hitter, any athlete needs that type of confidence,” Hourigan said. “When he’s in the moment, he always believes he’s the best guy. It’s the ‘it’ factor — you have to believe you’re going to get it done and he definitely does. That’s one thing I absolutely love when I recruit a kid, he’s gotta have that confidence in himself.”
But that confidence isn’t something that can be faked. Fedko is so confident because when he steps in the batters box, he knows he’s put in the work to be prepared for the moment. Once the Huskies’ finish practice, Fedko isn’t done. He heads to the team hitting facility to get at least 300 more swings in, often with his brother and teammate, Kyler Fedko.
“We know when the light is on in the barn, it’s probably Christian and Kyler, two brothers going at it,” head coach Jim Penders said. “There’s a lot of guys in there a lot but nobody’s in there more than Christian Fedko.”
For the Fedkos, baseball is a family affair. Most families would love to have two sons play Division I baseball anywhere. But Christian and Kyler get to play together for UConn — making it even more special. However, that wasn’t guaranteed when the two began getting recruited in high school.
“The plan wasn’t to [go to the same school],” Christian said, one year the elder of Kyler. “We had separate schools looking at us in the recruiting process. UConn offered me and I was looking in between a couple schools and I really liked coach Penders and the coaching staff, so I committed here.”
Once Christian gave his word to be a Husky, he started helping the coaching staff with the recruiting process on his brother.
“I was really talking up Kyler like crazy as soon as I committed like, ‘You’re going to love these guys,’” Christian said. “Then they offered him and when they offered him, we decided we wanted to be together. Kyler made the decision, and I’m really happy he did.”
With two of his sons playing in Storrs, father John Fedko will make the eight-plus hour drive to the games from their hometown of Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh. That type of commitment helps push Christian to be the best he can possibly be.
“My dad is such a blessing, he’s the greatest,” Christian said.
“He gave us all the tools to be successful and that’s another reason why I try so hard. Because I feel like if I don’t succeed — my dad gave me everything, I got to provide for him because he spent all this time to put me and my brother in this place for success. I’m really grateful for him and all the stuff he’s done for me.”
But that’s not Christian’s only family drive. Along with Kyler, there’s a third Fedko brother — Colby, a 13-year old sophomore in high school on the autism spectrum. Spend any time with Christian and it becomes obvious how much Colby means to him.
“To do everything for him is what I really try to do,” Christian said. “He’s my first priority, obviously my family and God but that’s who I really try to play for, every time I’m late in the cages, every time I’m taking extra reps, I’m thinking about him.”
Baseball is important to Christian, especially at this point in his life. At the same time, he knows it’s not the end-all, be-all.
“Baseball is just this thing. That’s not going to define me at the end of the day,” he said. “What will define me is my faith and what I do in Christ is what’s really going to define me.
Fedko is deeply religious — his walkup song is just the most visible example of that. While many college kids wouldn’t be comfortable being as open about their faith as Fedko, he understands the stage he’s given as a Division I athlete and wants to use it for good.
“Every day I go out to touch one person. If I could change one person, ‘Christian Fedko played Christian rock? Maybe I could do it,’” he said. “That’s what I try to do in my walk up song to represent me.”
So most baseball players won’t use a Christian rock song as their walk-up. But then again, most baseball players don’t take 300 extra swings after practice. Most didn’t grow up with a batting cage in their basement or a brother to work with. Most don’t take coaching the way Fedko does. In most ways, Fedko isn’t like most other ballplayers. So why should his walk-up song be like the rest?