Texas Christian University's move to the Big East Conference may have been a boon for the school's overall athletic program, but it didn't suit Christian Helsel.
Helsel, Altoona Area High School's standout junior shortstop-pitcher, had originally declared his intention last fall to play Division I baseball at TCU.
When the Horned Frogs left the Mountain West Conference for the Big East late last year, however, Helsel changed his mind. He recently re-committed verbally to another Division I baseball program, the University of Mississippi in the Southeastern Conference.
"TCU is a great place, but TCU switched to the Big East, and the Big East wasn't really where I wanted to play,'' Helsel said.
The unpredictable spring weather in the northeast factored heavily in Helsel's change of heart.
"I'd say the weather was the main factor,'' Helsel said. "Having grown up in the northeast, the weather isn't bad here, but I'd like to play somewhere down south where it's warm almost the whole year around.''
Oxford, Miss., the home of the Ole Miss campus, fits that bill, as well as providing top-notch collegiate baseball competition for Helsel, an Altoona Mirror first team all-star selection in both his freshman and sophomore years at Altoona.
"Every school in the SEC is top-notch,'' Helsel said. "Week in and week out, they're playing tough games there. It's highly-regarded as one of the best conferences in the country, and I'm extremely excited about playing in that conference.''
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Helsel, who plans to study exercise science and prepare for an eventual career as a strength trainer, cannot sign an official letter of intent with Ole Miss until next November.
"In January, I attended a camp down there, and I visited the campus again three or four weeks ago, and I loved it,'' Helsel said of the Ole Miss campus. "That's when I [verbally] committed.''
As was the case with TCU, Helsel will receive enough scholarship money from Mississippi to cover the majority of his college expenses.
In Helsel, Mississippi will be getting an all-around player who devotes a year-round passion to baseball, according to Altoona Area High School baseball coach Tom Smith.
"He's going to the next level as an infielder, but his pitching skills are pretty impressive as well,'' Smith said of Helsel, who was recently picked by the New York Yankees organization to play in this summer's East Coast Pro Showcase in Florida and in the Area Code games in California. "He's a very good hitter who uses the whole field and handles the bat extremely well. He's the best hit-and-run hitter that we have.
"He can do everything that you need. He works very hard, and, physically, he's still growing. He's gotten stronger since we first had him here as a ninth-grader.''
Helsel appreciated Smith giving him the opportunity to play varsity baseball two years ago as a freshman.
"I got a lot of experience playing with and against older guys my freshman year, and I want to thank my coaches for that,'' Helsel said.