Our grandson, DJ (David Joseph Nichols) had a successful 2010 high school baseball season as a junior despite not being able to play on the Varsity team due to being a recent transfer from another high school. This was very encouraging to DJ after coming from his previous school which had a highly developed baseball program where he was allowed little playing time and very little margin of error.
That season at a new school and with new coaches, new life was breathed into DJ. They immediately noticed his skills and potential, as well as his kind, humble, and teachable heart. Finally, he could relax and not play in fear. Instead of being under hard constant criticism and cussed out for falling short of any standard that was expected, DJ was encouraged and given room to grow, while productively being challenged under positive and effective coaching. DJ found joy again in playing the game he loved so much. The more DJ relaxed, the more his natural skills that can't be taught, began to soar.
The entire season DJ was the clean-up hitter, batting 4th in the lineup. Defensively he showed his versatility playing 1st, 3rd, catcher and pitching for the first time in a game, 3 innings in a row. In that particular game, DJ was picked on the spot without notice to relieve the starting pitcher because of his arm strength. Despite the pressure and nerves, DJ calmly came through, throwing mostly strikes and not allowing the other team to score.
Once the season ended, his Batting Average was .472. DJ had 25 hits, including 9 doubles (led the team by far), and 3 triples (tied for the lead on the team). He scored 18 runs and had 23 RBI's. DJ had 14 walks (led the team), and his On-Base Percentage was .606.
His pitching and defensive stats were not recorded, but there is no question he was one of the strongest defensive player. DJ was known for doing the splits off the bases, and getting covered with dirt making dives to stop the ball from getting past him. He always seemed to be covered in red clay!
At the awards banquet, DJ received MVP for the JV team, not just for his stats, but his leadership qualities and character on and off the field. Through it all, DJ remained humble and appreciative of any and every opportunity he had to play the game he is so passionate about. When asked which position he'd rather play, he responded, "I just want to play!" You will never hear him brag about his accomplishments or what he brought to the team, or even gripe or throw an attitude when things didn't go his way. Rather, you heard him encourage his teammates, especially those struggling, and was a positive voice for his team. DJ gained respect as a leader from fellow teammates, and was trusted by the coaches. Although it wasn't an easy journey for him being undermined in the past, DJ always persevered and maintained a respectful attitude. He continued to press on, appreciative of all the adversity he faced up to this point which has helped him become the young man and player he now is.
One of DJ's coaches shared, "DJ is a pleasure to be around on the baseball field, and a great young man." And from another coach, "DJ is a great young man and truly someone I believe can be a leader for us in his senior year on the Varsity."
That summer, DJ was invited to play on an elite showcase travel team, playing at 20 college campuses and in front of pro and college scouts. In his senior year, DJ played against his old school and coaches. He looked forward to shaking their hands as a starting Varsity player, and hoped it would encourage the hearts of these coaches to once again find their joy in this incredible opportunity given to them to invest in the lives of high school players.