“I recognized him right there,” recalls Chris’ father.
Derek Hacopian would know. In 1992, he had one of the greatest seasons in University of Maryland baseball history, becoming an All-American, named ACC Player of the Year, and breaking school records for the RBI and circuits. He was drafted into MLB by Cleveland and is still known as one of Churchill High’s best players.
Chris, who starts at shortstop for the Bulldogs some 34 years after his father, could be even better.
“I wasn’t even close to the shortstop that he is,” Derek Hacopian said of his son. “In high school, I wasn’t even close to the player he is. He’s 10 times better than me in high school.
Chris Hacopian is putting the finishing touches on a stellar junior season in which he hit .583 with 11 home runs — two shy of the state record — and set school records in RBI (38) and hits (35). ) throughout the regular season.
The top-seeded Bulldogs (16-1) have every intention of making a deep run in the Class 4A playoffs, which begin for them on Saturday after a first-round bye. They have become one of the best teams in the region and have realistic ambitions to win the program’s first state title since 1979.
“This game is pretty much all I know,” Hacopian said. “Coming here, doing what I do, it’s great to follow in my dad’s footsteps here. I’m just trying to go as far as I can personally in this game.
This year he wore Churchill. On April 1, he hit an extra innings home run against Bethesda-Chevy Chase. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and his team behind Wheaton by three runs on April 26, he hit a grand slam to secure a 12-11 win.
Although his bat is feared in the region and he has provided some quality outings as a pitcher (32 strikeouts and a 1.82 ERA in 23 innings), his alignment might be his greatest strength.
To understand the pride Hacopian takes in his glove, watch him practice for a few minutes. He cleanly sends every ball hit to him before sending a perfect pitch to first base. Then he’ll call one of his coaches “How could I have read that better?” »
Churchill’s trainer Pat Skellchock and his staff are happy to offer pointers, but sometimes their perspective comes with a preface accompanied by a laugh: “You’re better than me.”
Derek Hacopian said he always emphasized the importance of defense when teaching Chris and his older brother Eddie, who signed up to play for Maryland after two years at Cypress College in California.
When the dad noticed Chris had the innate ability to keep his head down on every ball he hit from a young age, he knew the kid was a natural infielder.
Hacopian identified his interest in being a shortstop early on. He enjoys being a leader and this position keeps him well in the thick of the action. He committed to Wake Forest as a freshman.
Much of Hacopian’s development is due to his father’s experience in the sport. After Derek Hacopian retired from professional baseball, he wanted to stay involved and opened a 3,000 square foot baseball academy in 1996. A year later, the space doubled in size. It wasn’t until 2016 that the baseball area, located in Gaithersburg, became what it is today – a 21,000 square foot facility that Chris and his teammates visit frequently.
“We have a great culture there,” Chris said. “Several players in this team… we all work there. »
Hacopian has fun with his friends in training, sneaking up on his teammates while they’re focused on a flying ball or getting someone excited after making a good play. He gets serious when the moment calls for it, as evidenced by his exploits in the late game.
After reaching the state quarterfinals last year, the Bulldogs won their first 16 games of 2022 before dropping their regular season finale on Monday against Blair. Hacopian hit his 11th homer of the season in the 8-4 loss.
As Churchill enters the next stage of his breakout season, Hacopian is expected to produce in all facets. The Bulldogs are confident they can count on him.
“He never showed that inner pressure,” senior receiver and co-captain Erik Rindner said. “Hacopian is a big name, but it met and exceeded expectations. »