Sometimes it pays to work in the athletic office.
Father Judge High School football coach Frank McArdle found that out this year.
John Westfield, a junior star pitcher, needed to drop off his PIAA physical so he could play baseball, and when he took it in the office, he handed it to McArdle.
“I started to walk out and he called me back and said, ‘Can you kick for me?’ ” Westfield recalled. “He told me that I only have to come to practice for 10 minutes a day, kick on game days and baseball comes first.”
Unlike the sports schedule because of coronavirus, it worked out perfectly for Westfield. Normally, on top of being a kicker, he plays wide receiver and safety for the Crusaders, but this year because football was in the spring, he decided to focus on his main sport, baseball, and give up football.
But with being just a kicker, it worked out great.
“It was great because I really wanted to play but my main sport is baseball so I really had to pick,” said Westfield, a pitcher and first baseman. “It was great being around. I did learn some things just being there and it will help me for next year. I think they had a good team and almost everyone is back.”
Football has a promising future.
Baseball has a promising present, especially when Westfield is on the mound.
Early in the season, Westfield has started two Catholic League games, both wins, and maintains an ERA of 2.80. His best game was against Conwell-Egan in his first start. He fanned 10 batters. After the game, he jumped on the bus, rushed back to school, arriving a little late for a football game before drilling a field goal, so being able to pull double duty has been perfect.
But baseball has his heart. And more than anything, he loves pitching for the Crusaders.
“Playing for this team has been great because we’ve played together our whole lives,” said Westfield, who lives in Morrell Park. “I played my whole life growing up for Liberty Bell and Marucci Philadelphia. We have pretty much all the starters who played together growing up. We have the same connection. It makes a big difference. It’s a lot easier, you know how everyone plays and you know their tendencies.
“We have a great team and great coaches. Barry Kneedler is one of my coaches, he’s coached me my whole life. He’s taught me so much, mechanics and a lot about the game.”
Coming into the season, Westfield was penciled in as the No. 2 starters for the Crusaders. Freshman sensation Dave Rodriguez was the opening day starter, but now Judge doesn’t have an ace. It has a pair of aces.
“It’s great, Dave is a very good pitcher and we help each other,” Westfield said. “We talk about things. We’ll work on things and help each other. It’s good to have another guy like that.”
Westfield also has a strong connection with his battery mate, Jeff Duda, one of the few players he didn’t know before he arrived at Judge.
“He’s a senior, and he didn’t play his freshman year, so sophomore year, we were the only two guys who weren’t returning on varsity,” Westfield recalled. “So we worked together a lot. I remember we would have to pick up everything after practice, and he would catch me in the bullpen. He’s a really good catcher. We became good friends.”
The camaraderie on the team could pay dividends as the season goes on.
Judge won three of its first four games, and has knocked off some tough teams in the process. Expectations were fairly high to begin with and despite being a young team, Westfield believes this could be a memorable one.
“I definitely think we should be contending for the playoffs and see what happens,” Westfield said. “I think we have a really strong team. We’re doing well, but we can still do better. We’re working.”
Westfield, who throws a fastball, curve and changeup, hopes to have a great summer of baseball, and in the fall, he’ll make his uncles happy by getting back to his other sport.
“My family is a big football family, my uncles were great football players,” Westfield said of his uncles Will and Rich McFillin, who starred at Washington. “My Uncle Rich coaches at Wood. It wasn’t hard telling him I wasn’t going there at all, it was fun.
“Both my parents went to Ryan, and my uncles played at Washington, but once I went to Judge (to shadow), I knew I wanted to go there. I think it helps that it’s an all-boys school. There’s a great brotherhood.
“I’ll go back to wide receiver and safety next year. It wasn’t hard not playing this year because I didn’t expect to play at all. I was happy to just kick.”
Now he just wants to win.
“We’re young on both teams, so it’s good,” said Westfield, who wants team wins above all, but admits he would like to be All-Catholic in both sports during his senior year, and possibly baseball this year. “The baseball team only has one senior starter, Jeff. And football has a lot of juniors, and we had a lot of really good freshmen this year. I think we can be really good.”