Digging deep for life lessons

One look at the Hauser High School baseball field and you might imagine that Jerry Schoen’s home must be surrounded by a pristine yard.

You would figure he has perfectly pruned rose bushes, grass that would make the groundskeepers at the Masters jealous and a picket fence that gets painted every six weeks.

Then again, when would Schoen have the time to do any yard work at home?

He has to put in countless hours at his high school park since he, basically, is in charge of that field’s maintenance.

Because of Schoen’s hard work, along with the sweat of his players, Hauser has a simply beautiful playground when it comes to baseball.

You might think it is kind of silly to notice such things, but it comes down to logic. If you are proud of your surroundings, you will want to work hard to be proud of your performance.

For years, I have marveled at the lessons learned by high school, and even college, baseball players, who are forced to maintain their home fields.

Whether it is frigid or blistering hot, whether it is raining or the wind is howling, the coaches and players perform the upkeep … win or lose.

Such was the case Friday night after the Jets dropped a 10-0 decision to Columbus North. All the fans were headed home, and the Hauser players were on the field raking, hosing down and combing all the key areas.

They have done it so long, it has become an automatic duty. You don’t see any whining or complaining, as if Schoen, a former Minor League player himself, would allow it.

At a time when athletes often feel entitled, it’s really cool. It’s called responsibility.

Watching the Hauser players run through their work duties, I thought back to my own childhood. I would return home from school and my dad would have left me a note on the kitchen counter.

“Mow the lawn.”

“Level that pile of dirt.”

“Weed the cucumbers.”

Much of the time, the task would take only about 30 minutes, and off I went to play with my friends. And most of the stuff, well, he could easily have done himself.

He was trying to teach me to be responsible, something I really didn’t figure out until long after I left high school.

We know that sports teaches our kids lots of great lessons. It certainly is easier, though, taking an extra 15 swings of batting practice than digging crabgrass out of the outfield.

Why should I have to do it when I’m hitting .425?

It’s called teamwork.

Fortunately, I had my dad, and the Jets have Schoen, to teach us some lessons that we gladly would have bypassed.

Schoen is there to make sure his players hold up their end of the agreement. If you play on the field, you are going to maintain that field. No exceptions.

“They understand,” Schoen said as he stopped driving the tractor he was using to rake the infield. “They have to get the job done. They have something to be proud of. It’s ownership.”

It’s also responsibility, and pride.

Yes, that’s a beautiful thing.

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at jheater@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.