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The Current

Memory of fallen Baseball player pushes team to succeed

Devon Rantz, father of Joe Rantz, talks to Jake Rogers, a junior, after the first pitch in a game against Center High School. Photo by Jared Pittsley

The Bruins Varsity Baseball Team is using “Joe Juice” to push through an extremely difficult season.

Last December, the Varsity team lost Joe Rantz, a senior team captain and starting left-handed pitcher, to a tragic car accident. The Bruins have been faced with many tough games so far this season, but they say Rantz’ spirit has been helping them play harder through the difficult games.

Head Coach Eric Van Patten reflected on Rantz as a person, and how their team is honoring him in the dugout by bringing his jersey with them to every game.

“Joe was an awesome kid to the high school, a good friend to many of the baseball players, a missed guy in our community,” Coach Van Patten said. “Bringing the jersey just helps us remember that the game isn’t about us, it’s about serving one another, so hopefully Joe can be remembered in that way, that we serve each other.”

Coach Van Patten discussed how the idea of Joe and his jersey affects the team.

“I think that the guys on the team need to probably take more of an ownership of (the spirit of the jersey), and every guy has to kinda do that on his own,” he said. “You can bring an idea to the whole group, but everyone has to have buy-in and have ownership, so hopefully the fact that we have his jersey travelling with us or in the dugout with us will spark somebody to want to think selflessly, and think about life rather than just themselves.”

Senior Outfielder Wyatt Hook talked about how Joe’s spirit makes him push himself harder everyday.

“Whenever coach says we got ‘Joe Juice’ or ‘Joe’s Spirit’ it just makes me want to work harder because he’s not there,” he said. “Every day before a game or before practice, I think to myself how hard Joe worked for everything and how much he wanted to succeed. That’s what makes me run a little harder for that fly ball or that’s what makes me run that last part of conditioning a little harder because I know he wanted us to succeed this year, and I’d do anything to help make us succeed more this season, not just for the team, but for Joe. Having Joe’s spirit means more to baseball player than it does to anyone just because we know his love for the game and we always know he’s watching us play and always supporting us.”

Justin Kilgore, a junior third baseman, explained how he wants to finish Joe’s unfinished business on the field.

“I used to step on a field and and feel ready to play, but now I feel that there is always something more,” he said. “There is a feeling that I get that says I have to do more, not for myself, but to finish something that another teammate started. Joe’s spirit is a driving force for me, saying you can always do better, and always push your teammates to do better as well, because that’s what he would have done.”

Another junior, Outfielder Johnny Calleri, talked about the different atmosphere on the field with him gone.

“It gives me something more to play for,” he said. “Like, this year isn’t just for a title. It’s for Joe. It’s a different atmosphere on the field without him.”

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Memory of fallen Baseball player pushes team to succeed