For most baseball teams, the ultimate focus is being the best and winning a lot of games. While winning games is an exciting component, it is not what defines the New Life Academy baseball team.
Playing baseball for NLA has its perks. Other high schools in the district average 1,700 students in grades 9-12. New Life Academy averages 240 students in the high school. Since NLA is a smaller community, many boys get to experience playing varsity-level sports for a longer period of time. The boys on this team have grown together, as they have been playing sports together at New Life Academy for a while.
There is more to this group of boys than meets the eye.
“A big component to how successful they were is how close knit they are,” said head coach Dave Darr. He gave one example of how two senior boys went to the home of a freshman player after he had a rough game, and took him out with them for the night. The bonding of this team is something that could not be experienced on a public school squad.
“They genuinely cared for the well-being of their teammates,” coach Darr said. The caring nature of the team is not just something that the coach sees, but something the players sincerely act on.
When asked about what qualities stand out about this team, senior John Horner said, “We cared about each other personally, not just because we played baseball.” Horner has played on multiple teams throughout his career, and said that he has never experienced this level of faith on another team.
“It’s not all about winning, but about playing to glorify God,” Horner said.
Parents also witnessed the unique qualities of this team.
“As a parent, what I see is more unity,” said Matt Leighton, father of sophomore player Tanner Leighton. Matt said that he loves using sports as a teaching platform for his son and providing him with life skills that he can incorporate off the field. Matt explained that his son gained more character and spiritual awareness from being a part of the team this year.
The one thing that stuck out to Matt about this team was their genuine and true humility. He said the way the boys handled the win and carried themselves after was a true indication of their character.
“They didn’t just become better baseball players this season, they became better people,” said coach Darr.
Looking to read more about the team’s State Tournament win? Click below for articles from several local newspapers.
New Champs: Eagles claim Class A Baseball title – Woodbury Bulletin
New Life Academy’s Baseball Team Takes Home State Title – Yahoo Video
Class A state baseball: New Life Academy 5, New York Mills 4 – Pioneer Press