Anthony Jakeman didn’t waste any time.
When the Father Judge High School team was eliminated from the Catholic League playoffs after a loss to La Salle last year, he didn’t take a few months off. He didn’t take a few weeks to collect his thoughts. He didn’t even take a few days to late emotional end of the season blow over.
Immediately following the loss, Jakeman went to work.
“I became a better player, I took it personal and after our season, right after our La Salle game, I was hitting and catching,” said Jakeman, a senior catcher on the Crusaders. “All summer, in the gym, in the cages, trying to get better. Last year I had some games where I wasn’t playing well and I wasn’t playing as much. I wanted to be the starter, and I knew I had to work for it. It helped a lot.”
Jakeman’s work paid off. Not only is he entrenched in the Crusaders lineup as the starting catcher, but he’s grown into the role of team leader.
Teams need leaders, but in baseball, it’s particularly important for one of those leaders to be behind the plate because they see the whole field.
Jakeman has become that guy for Judge, and he’s proud that he grew into that.
“My role is to be a leader, that’s what they want from me,” said Jakeman, who lives in Morrell Park. “Sophomore year, I wasn’t much of a leader but last year and this year, I try to help them get through what we’ve been through.
“There were older guys I watched, Jeff Duda, he was a great leader, so I watched him. I do the same stuff, follow a lot of his stuff and that’s where it got me today. I like being a leader, I think it helps. Even last year when I wasn’t playing, I was being loud. I love winning. I want to play, but I love when we win.”
Jakeman must be having the time of his life this year because nobody is playing better baseball than the Crusaders.
Judge is undefeated on the season, including a perfect 8-0 in the Catholic League, and it’s already beaten most of the teams contending for first place.
The Crusaders are the team to beat in the Catholic League, and that puts a bullseye on their back. But Jakeman and his teammates are loving it.
“This year has been great. We went to Myrtle, first time we did that in the program, and that was great,” said Jakeman, who is hitting .333 this year. “And being with the same dudes I was with freshman year, and we keep winning. We’re having so much fun, most fun I ever had playing baseball.
“I’ve played with some of these guys since T-ball. A few were introduced when we got to high school, but most I played little league with. Being around the same guys, when you’re in the game, same guys you’ve been playing with your whole life just balling out together.”
It’s even more fun when they win.
Judge had huge expectations coming into the season, but staying perfect eight games in to the PCL schedule is an accomplishment few would have predicted. But Jakeman would have.
“The Catholic League is the best league around, every team has a couple studs, great pitchers, they play defense and every team hits,” Jakeman said. “You can’t get better than that. Every game is tough. Every win is big.
“We knew we were going to be good this year. We worked for it. Pitching staff, best around, pitching is great. We got three guys we can throw out and get a win. We have the best 1-2 punch in the Catholic League and it’s not even close. And we hit. We have some great hitters. We expected a big year.”
He expects a big year next year, too, when he gets to Goldey-Beacom College, where he’ll major in accounting and play baseball.
“I was always good with numbers and took five business classes since my sophomore year,” Jakeman said. “I love it. I just wanted to try it. Last year, I wanted to be a physical therapist, but I took accounting and I fell in love with it.
“My accounting teacher (John Dunlop) said I’d be good at finance. He’s the best. He’s great in the classroom, if you don’t get it, he’ll help you with whatever you need. I know he’ll always help me if I need it.”
Jakeman was thankful he had help in baseball.
He said he’s a better player because of his coaches, including Judge coach Mike Metzger, assistant Barry Kneedler, who has coached him since he was a youngster, club coaches Andrew Lihotz and Robert Del Buono. He also credits his teammates at Judge and Del Buono’s son, also Robert, who is Jakeman’s teammate on their club team, Rake Baseball Academy.
“Since I started playing with them, I’ve gotten better and my confidence has skyrocketed,” Jakeman said. “It’s more family than baseball. Same as with Judge. It’s baseball, but it’s more than baseball.”
Like family. But his family has had a huge influence on him.
“My parents have helped me so much, we would go to the cages, weekends I would stay in and get extra work in,” he said. “I couldn’t do that without them.
“We want to finish this season strong. I love playing for Judge. Love the team and the brotherhood of it. We are having fun.”