Held's quiet confidence leads to two team honors at Brentwood
Brentwood baseball coach Greg Perdziola noticed it in the second game of the season against South Side Beaver.
Trailing 3-1, his team was struggling to figure out sophomore pitcher Dustin Lander's curve ball, but noticed he was throwing first-pitch fastballs.
“I told the team to just hit fastballs,” Perdziola said.
Senior first baseman Jake Held nodded and approached the plate.
“He went up there and the first pitch was a fastball, and he stroked it for an (RBI) base hit,” Perdziola said. “I kept using him as an example. I was saying ‘Jake did exactly what he was told to do and look what happened.' We started to rally.”
Held finished 2 for 3 with two RBI, and even though the Spartans lost, 7-4, Perdziola knew Held had turned a corner in his game.
“You didn't expect it out of Jake. No one was expecting Jake to step up and be this guy,” Perdziola said of Held's team-leading season statistics.
Held was named most outstanding team member during the Brentwood's all-sports banquet at the end of the school year, finishing with team-highs in batting average (.395), home runs (four) and RBI (14).
But his athletic accolades didn't end there. He became one of three Brentwood seniors to be named most outstanding team member in two different sports, earning the honor in boys' golf as well.
“It meant a lot because my teammates voted on those,” Held said. “To know they think that high of me felt pretty great.”
Never the one to raise his voice and shout in order to get his teammates' attention, Held developed a quiet confidence entering his senior year that coaches and players alike gravitated toward.
“The one thing with Jake is he is very quiet, but everybody likes him,” Perdziola said. “You can just tell he had the confidence (this year) and he had a very successful year.”
Held admits balancing the rigors of classwork while working to better his game was difficult, but credited his teachers and coaches for helping him manage his time.
“The coaches helped a lot because I had a lot to do outside of sports,” Held said. “It was hard, but I was able to come late to practice after getting help from some teachers.”
Held has played baseball all his life. But only started playing golf during his freshman year — a sport which he admits was more mentally straining.
“There's a lot more mechanical and mental aspects you have to work on,” Held said of his acclimation to golf. “I was working a lot more mentally.”
Held started for the Spartans all four years, shooting a personal-best 40, while finishing with a nine-hole average of 42 this past season.
Like Perdziola, Brentwood golf coach Gary Cramer noticed Held's yearly progress, and thinks his calm demeanor benefited him in a game as reserved as golf.
“In golf, definitely, because you don't have that outward talking and being loud,” Cramer said, “so you have to lead by example. He did that well. He was our No. 1 golfer.”
Unlike his older brother Jeff, who golfs at La Roche College, Jake plans to attend Dean Tech for HVAC, foregoing a possible collegiate athletic career.
“If he wanted to he could have played college baseball because he was still getting better,” Perdziola said. “I think he realized it as a junior, that he had the potential to be a good baseball player.”
Held thinks his experience as a successful student-athlete will help him in his post-high school days, especially when he enters the workforce in a few years.
“Through sports I met a lot of people, and it's been a lot easier to talk to people,” Held said. “Going to school and out in the real world, it will help with my social skills; help me be more mentally stable.”
Perdziola said: “His confidence is going to help him in whatever he does in life. When he puts his mind to something, he can accomplish it.”
Justin Criado is a freelance writer