Notre Dame High School graduate Robbie Buecker has found his time at West Point to be rewarding both on and off the baseball field. Photo courtesy of
Notre Dame High School graduate Robbie Buecker has found his time at West Point to be rewarding both on and off the baseball field. Photo courtesy of
" My family has obviously been an integral part in being there when I’ve needed them the most. So has my faith. It’s a team effort, more so than any other place. " Robbie Buecker

Robbie Buecker would not call his four years at the U.S. Military Academy West Point life-changing, but he would certainly consider them life enhancing.

“I think at this point, being in a leadership role, not only on the baseball team, but within the school and within your company, it’s definitely given me a greater appreciation for the development that goes on here,” the Black Knights senior pitcher said. “I’ve seen myself develop as a young man. If I had to break it down into one word; it would be ‘rewarding.’”

The parishioner of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton, hopes to reward Army’s baseball team with a strong final season on the mound. The Knights are seeking their fifth straight Patriot League championship and Buecker is expected to be a strong contributor as both a starter and reliever.

“As the season goes on, roles start to be more defined and they kind of figure themselves out,” the graduate of Lawrenceville’s Notre Dame High School said.

Buecker was the winning pitcher in Army’s 5-2 win over Air Force opening day. The right-hander allowed three hits and no walks while striking out four in three innings. Army took two out of three from the Falcons, and in the loss another ND graduate – junior Steven Graver – struck out two in one scoreless inning.

“Steve had a great fall for us, he threw the ball well for us last spring, he’s gonna be a huge part of our staff this year,” Buecker said. “It’s really cool that two guys from the same high school are throwing it together every weekend.”

Graver was used in 16 games as a starter and reliever last year, throwing 33 innings after being used sparingly as a freshman.

Buecker, however, has been utilized from the start. His freshman campaign in 2020 was cut short by COVID but he still appeared in six games and went 1-1. As a sophomore, the Allentown resident started 12 of his 13 appearances and went 3-4 with a 6.95 ERA in 57 innings, while last year he had eight starts and 10 relief stints in going 1-5 with a 6.42 ERA.

He expects to be used in various ways by first-year coach Chris Tracz, and has no problem with that.

“I’m pretty comfortable doing whatever,” Buecker said. “I’m not a guy who’s only good to start, or good to come out of the pen. Even last year I threw 50, 60 innings in different roles. It was definitely good to get the ball in different situations. I just kind of rolled with it.

“This year should be some of the same. Mix in some starts, mix in some long relief, mix in some jam situations and just go out there and throw. It doesn’t matter at this point in my career what inning it is or what the situation is. I’m just going out there and doing my thing.”

In assessing his progress since high school, Buecker feels his biggest improvement has been adding miles to his slider.  

“The biggest difference between high school baseball and college baseball is that guys have hard sliders; and that’s something that took me a couple years here to develop,” said Buecker, who follows the Irish and his younger brother Brendan via live video stream broadcasts of ND football and baseball games. “My freshman and sophomore years I was throwing more of a high school type breaking ball, a mid-70s type breaking ball. But last year and this year I’m throwing it in the 78 to 81 miles per hour range.

“It’s more of a true slider. That’s opened up a lot of different things I can do on the mound. It’s definitely changed how I pitch and it’s been great so far.”

Buecker is about more than just baseball, of course. Pressure abounds at a school that prepares America’s future military leaders. There is a lot of discipline, and Buecker’s plebe (freshman) year, “was kind of tough. There were a lot of rules you had to follow; responsibilities outside of school and baseball that you had to carry out.”

But Robbie had a way of dealing with it – trust in God. One of the more active members of Notre Dame’s Catholic Athletes for Christ, he has long turned to faith in good times and bad. He is a member of the college’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter, which holds Bible study discussion twice a week at 6 a.m.

“It’s definitely been a nice way to keep up,” Buecker said. “I’d say (my faith) has remained the same since I got here. It’s something to lean on when times have gotten tough [and] something that you need here to support you. My family has obviously been an integral part in being there when I’ve needed them the most. So has my faith. It’s a team effort, more so than any other place.”

It takes a special kind of individual to graduate from West Point: A leader with integrity. A personality that will be respected.

Buecker has long been that. He captained ND’s football and baseball teams, and is now a captain for a Black Knights program that he has helped make a consistent Patriot League power.  

When Robbie graduates this spring, he will be accorded the rank of Second Lieutenant. He has branched (chosen) Field Artillery – one of 17 choices graduates have – as his job upon graduation.  That position offers three different jobs – a fire support officer who observes rounds and calls for fire on positions; a fire direction officer who does all the math to make sure the rounds find the targets they are meant to; and a platoon leader, who is in charge of the gun line and cannon crews.

Once assigned, he hopes to be stationed at either Fort Bragg, North Carolina or Fort Drum, New York.

“It’s a cool branch,” Buecker said. “There’s a lot of different jobs in field artillery that junior officers can do, which is a little different from other branches, where maybe it’s logistical support or maybe you’ll be a platoon leader for 16 months. In field artillery, there are a lot of different opportunities for leadership.”

Buecker has always been a leader; but even he could not understand the significance of leading soldiers as opposed to leading teammates until he arrived at West Point. Although attending the Academy had long been his dream, he had to be a part of it to truly comprehend it.

“I think I’ve gained a greater appreciation for it as the years have gone on,” Buecker said. “I’ve talked to more people here and gained an understanding of what it’s all about. It’s definitely shaped me. Coming into West Point, I didn’t know too much about the Army and how it all worked.  At this point I have a pretty solid foundation.”