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Jake Heilman: Leader on and off the field

Reena Mathews, Staff Writer

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Adolescent growth is a peculiar time in which children are the epitome of a fresh slate. Innocent and impressionable, kids are significantly affected by their environment as they grow up. Junior Jake Heilman is no exception. Jake has been playing baseball since the age of three, and the subsequent experiences from that have taught Jake countless, priceless lessons that have shaped him into the person he is today.  

“[Baseball has] given me a lot of life values,” Jake said. “In a less stereotypical way to put it, it has showed me the ability I have to be a leader: verbally, nonverbally, and, by example, how I play and operate on the field.”

More specifically, Jake has been playing travel baseball with Diamonds since he was eight years old. That experience has brought its own unique advantages.

“I made some pretty sweet friendships, as far as travel ball is concerned, because I don’t play with a single kid that goes to this school,” Jake said.

Besides travel baseball, Jake is also on the FHC varsity baseball team. He has been on the team since freshman year. Being one of four freshman on a high school varsity team resulted in an interesting experience for Jake.

“It definitely threw us in and made us mature, in the baseball sense, quicker than we had to, which was good for later on,” Jake said.

The lessons cultivated from Jake’s baseball experiences also translate greatly into life off the field.

“Especially in baseball, you’re an offensive and defensive player at the same time,” Jake said. “I guess what I’m trying to say is, you gotta bring it all together. So, you gotta be able to be an offensive and defensive person out in your life when you’re doing certain things. You gotta be well rounded.”

The relevant life lessons derived from baseball do not end there.

“Baseball provides an interesting difference from the regular sport, because you could not get a hit on a day, but still have a really good day,” Jake said. “Just because something goes downhill in a certain section of your life, it doesn’t mean the rest of your life has to go downhill.”

Jake’s father has been another important part of his journey in baseball and life as a whole. Up until Jake was in fifth grade, his father coached him. But, the end of Jake’s father’s coaching days was not the end of the continuous support and guidance he provided.

“He’s taught me so many little things that not many people teach or harp on as much as he does,” Jake said.

Jake’s father’s support has never wavered in all the years of his athletics.

“From day one he said, ‘try your best, and have fun,’” Jake said. “That was when I was five or six, and he has kept that [sentiment] throughout [the years]. Of course, as you get older it doesn’t become that– you’re held to higher standards. But, he’s gone back to that [saying] a lot.”

In addition to his dad, Jake has found meaningful role models in his teachers at school. His honors English 9 teacher, Lisa Penninga, was a substantial help to his first year of high school. Jake initially struggled in her class, but Penninga went above and beyond, helping him with reading, writing, and grammar after school.

“Overall, she made me a better writer and a better reader,” Jake said. “I do not have any regrets about taking her class, it was probably one of the best classes I’ve ever taken in high school just because of how great she ended up being for me and how much she taught me.”

In Jake’s next year of high school, his English 10 teacher, Ken George, also impacted him greatly. Jake “learned more about life than anything else,” during his time in George’s class. Furthermore, George opened up a new door for Jake in his writing.

“Mr. George gave me the opportunity to write about what I wanted to write about,” Jake said, “I’m passionate about it now because of him.”

Jake is unsure of what the future holds, but he hopes to play baseball in college. Regardless of how life turns out, baseball will surely always be a part of his life, as it continues to teach Jake about the game, life, and most importantly: himself.

“It’s been able to show me so much about myself, that I probably wouldn’t have been able to find out if I didn’t play [baseball],” Jake said.

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