Duber: Local athletes relished ride with Waubonsee baseball
Reaching the pinnacle of your sport is great.
Doing it two years in a row is excellent.
Doing it with people you’ve known your whole life is really special.
The Waubonsee Community College baseball team returned from its second straight appearance in the Division-III Junior College World Series with a fourth-place finish.
And while the guys all say they wanted to bring home a national championship, it’s starting to sink in for shortstop Tyler Heinle and pitcher Jordan Jones – a pair of Kaneland alumni – that they’ve accomplished something quite remarkable.
“I’ve played with Tyler Heinle since as long as I can remember,” Jones said. “We won a state championship together, and then coming here [to the World Series] twice. It’s always fun. All the Yorkville kids, we always played against them, they were in our same conference. So to be on the same team and to share it with them, there’s no better feeling.”
“We’ve been pretty good friends as well as teammates,” Heinle said. “I’m glad that we chose Waubonsee and stuck together.”
As Jones mentioned, this isn’t just for lifelong teammates. It’s a great moment for former adversaries, as well.
Waubonsee’s roster is chock full of former Yorkville Foxes, a Geneva Viking, a St. Charles North North Star and a Batavia Bulldog.
“It’s fun because we were all competitive in high school, kind of talking trash and all the normal stuff. And then being put on the same team, it brought us closer, and I think we all clicked pretty good,” said catcher Jay Clark, the Batavia grad, who elaborated on just how close the old rivals became.
“Everyone just came together on weekends, just going fishing, hanging out, getting together at the apartments, watching movies. Just being a team.”
Seeing this is nothing new for Dave Randall, the Waubonsee coach who in his last year at the helm reached his fourth World Series (third in five seasons), set a program record with 39 wins and finished with 895 career victories, the second most all-time among coaches at nonscholarship junior colleges.
“We get that a lot in all our sports,” he said. “East Aurora, West Aurora kids come out and play together after their big rivalry in Aurora. And then you’ve got the Geneva-Batavia rivalry, you’ve got the Yorkville and Kaneland rivalry. It’s all over the place in high school. But it doesn’t matter. You put them all on the same team ... do they joke, laugh and talk about it? Oh yeah, it’s all part of their background.
“But we’re in it for the same thing, we have the same goals, we all want to be good. If we can help each other win, all that stuff goes out the window real quick.
“I’ve had kids who go, ‘I hated him in high school, I hated them.’ A few weeks later they go, ‘I hated that guy, and now we’re good friends.’ So that’s just the way it is.”
While getting to the World Series would have been a huge moment for these players regardless of which names were above and below theirs on the roster, sharing the moment with longtime teammates and longtime opponents makes everything more enjoyable – and memorable.
“Growing up with these kids and playing against them, getting on the same team,” Jones said, “I think it makes it a lot more special.”
• Vinnie Duber writes the weekly On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. If you have a column suggesiton on local athletes competing in college, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.