State finals: Award symbolizes Gobert's passion

Matthew Busch/The Herald
Jasper senior Nick Gobert, right, accepted congratulations after receiving the L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award on Friday night at Victory Field following the Wildcats’ 2-1 setback to Norwell in the Class 3A state championship.

By JOHN PATISHNOCK
Herald Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — Nick Gobert was the unofficial man of the night. Or actually, perhaps it was official. After all, it seemed like every Jasper fan made sure to acknowledge Nick before leaving Victory Field, Nick’s home away from home.

Hugs. Handshakes. Pats on the shoulder. The Wildcat contingent smothered Nick with love after he became the seventh player in program history to win the L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award on Friday night after top-ranked Jasper fell 2-1 to No. 3 Norwell in the Class 3A state championship.

Afterward, friends, family members and former players converged on Nick. Fans walked down the steps to reach over and share a moment. Others flocked him when he walked into the stands, following Nick up to the concourse.

Twice during his interview, a younger sister interrupted and wrapped her arms around her older brother: first Maria, then Laura.

“They care just as much as I do,” Nick said. “I guarantee it.”

Despite the loss, the significance of the moment didn’t pass by Nick, who mentioned Matt Mauck and Heath Uppencamp as two of the past recipients of the award. Current JHS assistant Phil Kendall is another.

“It means a lot to be in that same category,” Nick said. “I want to thank my parents for raising me up right and just giving me the opportunity.”

His dad, Terry, of course, coaches the team. His mom, Caroline, also was there, sitting two rows behind home plate, seemingly experiencing every emotion possible as she saw Nick work out of jams and keep Jasper in the game.

“It was a blast to watch my husband and my son out there doing something that they love to do; it’s a blessing,” Caroline said. “To have success this year is just awesome and for a senior to end his career on Victory Field, it doesn’t get any better except for a ”˜W.’”

But Nick’s season was still special and his career especially memorable.

“I’m just proud of him because he’s gotten every moment, I think, out of high school,” Terry said.
“He’s been a fun kid to be around. He played football, basketball, baseball, he plays with passion, keeps his grades up and he’s been a super kid. … I’m happy for him. He definitely earned it. I am proud.”

“I know that what Nick wanted was the title, but the award is such a nice honor,” added Caroline. “There’s so many young men from Jasper that have received that award and it’s such an awesome way to end his career.”

The mental attitude award is annually presented to an outstanding senior participant in each state championship who has best demonstrated excellence in mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability in baseball. In addition to athletics, Nick also participated in Fellowship of Christian Athletes and is on the Jasper High School Student Athletic Advisory Committee, IHSAA Leadership Conference Delegate, student council, as well as a Natural Helpers Peer Mentor.

Nick is also a member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church as well as the Dubois County Leukemia Society. He has contributed his time volunteering for Jasper Youth Football programs, the Dubois County Food Bank and nursing home visitations.

In the game Friday, Nick fired five innings, allowing two runs and six hits while striking out four. He recorded back-to-back punch-outs in the second inning when Norwell had runners on second and third with one out and also ended the fourth with a strikeout when Norwell again had a runner in scoring position. After ending the fourth, Nick raced off the mound and exploded into a near-full body fist pump. He had come a long way since scurrying around the dugout as a toddler in 1997, when Jasper won the second of three consecutive championships.

Nick still has a photo of himself that ran in The Herald that depicts a championship blue medal dangling in front of him. After the game Friday, Caroline recalled Nick running the bases in celebration back in ’97. Only he went backward, leaving home plate for third base on his mini-adventure. As Terry said: “He’s got it in his blood. No matter what.”

He’s right. That photo of Nick? He slept beside it Thursday night, taking it with him to his hotel room and propping it up in bed.

Weird? Hardly. It served as inspiration.

“I’ve been on a mission to get the blue medal forever and just came up short unfortunately,” he said. “But I couldn’t thank my teammates and everybody enough. Eventually we’ll look back on this and realize, ”˜Hey, it was something pretty special.’”

“Two trips here, you just can’t put a dollar value on it,” Terry said, referencing the team’s runner-up finish in 2010, when Nick played second base. “I had a hard time today. I didn’t see it coming, but I came into this dugout and I remember when he was 21⁄2, coming in and out of the dugout and I thought, ”˜He’s out there on the mound now in the championship game,’ and he gave it everything he had.”

Terry said he took a moment Friday to think about everything that’s transpired during Nick’s career. Prayer. Meditation. Terry didn’t settle on a single word to describe the experience, simply saying he was “just giving thanks to have these opportunities.”

Nick called Jasper “a unique place” as he marveled at how many Wildcats supporters made the 21⁄2-hour trip to watch the team. Of the reported attendance of 3,522, easily more than half were Jasper fans.

“They support us in everything that we do, nobody is going to have a bigger crowd than what we had,” Nick said. “It’s unreal looking at it from the field and we appreciate everything they do.”

The fans, in turn, appreciate Nick. One, in particular, joked that she’d share some dirt on Nick before quickly acknowledging there wouldn’t be anything to reveal.

Hiding something, she wasn’t. Just poking some fun at a kid who did his best to enjoy every last moment he had before taking off his uniform for the last time.

“I just hope that in my four years here that I’ve played with passion and the right way and gave people something to cheer about, as far as just how we play the game, we play it the right way,” Nick said. “It’s nice that people appreciate what we’ve done.”

 

All about attitude

Jasper’s six previous baseball recepients of the L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award:

1967 — Phil Rohleder
1996 — Phil Kendall
1997 — Matt Mauck
1998 — Heath Uppencamp
2006 — Sam Linette
2010 — Austin Ahrens

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.




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