Dreams mean nothing without work, even for a five-year-old. Competition brings out that sentiment better than anything, and it’s far too common that it comes from driven parents. Now step aside from the vision of two dads coming to blows over whose boy should be pitching, and imagine it’s the five-year-old telling his father to suck it up and keep throwing the ball.
For Utah Valley senior pitcher Jeremy Gendlek, baseball is life and always has been, even when his father/catcher Don Gendlek would get a little tired.
“When I was five or six I would keep my dad out in the yard for hours,” Gendlek said. “I probably kept him out there too long but I never wanted to stop. As long as I can remember baseball has been what I love and what I want to do.”
Gendlek’s childhood recollections may invoke black-and-white images of Ward Cleaver playing ball with Wally and the Beave, but his dominance on the mound tells another tale. He was named to the First Team All Great West Conference in his first year with the Wolverines and also nabbed the Newcomer of the Year award. Oh yeah, he was also named Pitcher of the Year.
For Gendlek, awards are nice, but also carry a hefty price tag.
“It’s by far the best award I’ve won,” Gendlek said. “But all that means is that everyone on our schedule will know who I am and will be prepared. Now I have to go out and prove I can do it again or else it doesn’t really matter.”
Using 2011 as a benchmark for a successful 2012 season is no small task, not just for him but any pitcher that may ever take the mound for the Wolverines. That may seem like an overstatement, but after posting a UVU single season record 1.71 earned run average, he is now the gold standard when it comes to judging future Wolverine pitchers.
Gendlek also tied the school record for most shutouts, as well as tying for second place for most complete games. After a “slow” start, and as conference play ensued, he settled into a nice little groove, recording a 0.43 ERA.
For those who aren’t stats geeks, that’s good, really good. Great West teams were only able to muster less than half a run for every nine innings they faced Gendlek.
All the records and accolades have been a long time in the making, and finding his way to the UVU baseball program wasn’t a quick process either. Gendlek played his backyard and high school ball in Olympia, Wash., followed by two years at Western Nevada Community College prior to arriving at UVU.
Without any local ties to the community, it was a road trip while still with Western Nevada to play Salt Lake Community College that first exposed him to the surroundings. In a subsequent trip to play in a tournament on campus, he was contacted by coaches and courted by the program’s success.
“Wherever you play, you want to win,” Gendlek said. “The success the team has had played a big part in my coming here. I fell in love with the area, and combined with the make-up of the team, I was happy to sign up and see what I could contribute.”
Dreams and ambitions have a way of evolving over the years in many ways, but not in baseball. Baseball players don’t dream of playing collegiately and quitting to deliver pizzas. It’s all about the Major Leagues.
“Like everyone else that plays, I would love to play professionally,” Gendlek said. “It’s been a fun road and hopefully it will continue. But we have some business to take care of this season. If I can play well enough to help the team win, that’s most important, and then we’ll see what comes next.”
Gendlek’s UVU career is rounding third base. As his time as a Wolverine comes to a close, fans will have a chance to experience what sports is all about. If his senior season can even come close to his junior campaign, tickets to Brent Brown ballpark will be well worth the price of admission.
By Jonathan Boldt