Drew Steckenrider is a baseball Renaissance man. He is a starting pitcher, a reliever, an outfielder, a first baseman and a designated hitter. He has been a switch-hitter — batting both right-handed and left-handed — since he was six.
    
Baseball has shown it is difficult to both be a hitter and a pitcher. Pitchers that hit well are rare, and position players that pitch well are even more rare.
    
But the 6-foot-5 Steckenrider just thinks about how fun it is to have the opportunity to both pitch and drive in runs as the team’s cleanup hitter, like he was on Tuesday against Middle Tennessee State.
    
“I just take it one at a time,” Steckenrider said. “If you have a bad inning, you don’t want to take it to your at-bat because it’s obviously going to affect you. (It’s) really just staying with it. If I’m on the mound, obviously I’m not hitting right then. Worry about that when I get the third out and step into the batter’s box.”
   
 He does not consider himself a position player who also pitches or a pitcher who plays in the field sometimes.
    
“It’s about 50-50,” he said. “I wouldn’t consider (myself) to be better at one or the other, just like to go out every day and do my best at whichever I happen to be doing that day.”
   
 Steckenrider has served as both a pitcher and a position player since his time in high school at Greater Atlanta Christian School. In his junior year there, he hit .387 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs. His pitching success rivaled his hitting prowess. He tossed 36 innings of work that year, compiling a 7-1 record with a 1.17 ERA and 46 strikeouts.
    
He improved at the plate in his senior year, hitting .488 and setting a school-record .627 on-base percentage. Baseball America rated him one of the top 100 overall prospects in the class of 2009.
    
But when he initially came to UT — after picking the school over Ole Miss, Auburn and Hawaii — he was only an outfielder.
    
“We got a couple of guys hurt, my freshman year, and (we) needed some guys on the mound,” he said. “And I had pitched in high school, had a pretty good arm and decent stuff, so I threw a bullpen. And ever since then, I’ve been a pitcher.”
    
As a pitcher, Steckenrider relies primarily on his fastball.
   
 “This year I’ve been working on my breaking pitches — slider, changeup — just being able to throw those for strikes in any count, 0-0, 3-2, whatever it may be,” he said.
    
Even though he came to UT as an outfielder, Steckenrider embraced the opportunity and saw more appearances as a pitcher in his first two years at UT (29) than games played as a position player (27).
    
Indeed, Steckenrider has always looked for just the opportunity to play, since he first came to UT.
    
“I came looking to start right away, right off the bat,” he said. “In the outfield, (former Vols center fielder) Kentrail Davis was here the year before me. It was his year to leave, so taking over his role in center field and working in right field and eventually onto the mound.”
    
UT head coach Dave Serrano ranks Steckenrider highly.
    
“Drew is as talented a player as I have ever been around in my years of coaching,” Serrano said. “He has pure ability that you just have to be born with. I tell the team all the time that there isn’t a single player that is more important than any other, but Drew has the talent to help us become a more successful team consistently this season.”
    
For Steckenrider, baseball was always apart of his childhood. When he described growing up, he left it at this: “a lot of baseball, a little of basketball.”
    
“Unfortunately I wasn’t too good at basketball, so that really didn’t last too long once I got in high school,” Steckenrider said.
    
He lived in Lawrenceville, Ga., a city southeast of Atlanta. His father, Paul, was a salesman with an engraving company before he retired. His mother, Cindy, works in human resources at Blackberry.
    
He was the kind of child that was always outdoors, playing something. He quickly acclimated to the year-round pursuit of baseball, playing during the season and getting in shape in the winter.
    
He loved hitting so much that he worked hard to improve. A cage was in the Steckenrider family’s backyard. Each day before school, at around 7 a.m., father and son could be found there, with the father tossing whiffle balls for his son to hit. At 7:30 a.m., his father would take him to school. When his father returned home, he would pick up all the balls in the yard.
    
All that hitting practice immediately paid dividends in Steckenrider’s very first at-bat as a Vol on Feb. 19, 2010, against Xavier. The very first pitch he swung at was a home run, one, he said, he would remember for the rest of his life.
    
“The guy made a pretty good pitch,” he said. “I remember, fastball, low and in, and I just got the barrel head to the ball and squared one up. I hit a screamer down past the right-field foul pole.”
   
 But Steckenrider’s fondest memories of his time thus far at UT are not any plays or particularly good or bad games he has had. He remembers the lifelong friends he has made in his fellow players in the clubhouse.
    
“It’s special, something that no one can take away from you,” he said. “Of course, like in high school, you talk to the guys for the rest of your life. They’re going to be at your weddings. We all are going to be in each other’s weddings.”