College athletes stress perseverance gets you far

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Tenth Street Elementary fifth-grader Vincent Huckelby, center, chats with former Heritage Hills High School baseball player Kenton Crews, left, and former Jasper High School baseball player Craig Shepherd at the school in Jasper on Thursday. Crews and Shepherd, along with former Jasper High School baseball players Evan Aders and Cal Krueger, answered students' questions, signed autographs and played knock out during an extra recess. All four play collegiate baseball. Aders, Shepherd and Crews play for University of Evansville and Krueger plays for Indiana University. 

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

JASPER — Tenth Street Elementary fifth-graders crowded around four college baseball players in the cafeteria Thursday morning clamoring for autographs. The players were happy to oblige.

Jasper High School graduates Cal Krueger, Craig Shepherd and Evan Aders, along with Heritage Hills High School graduate Kenton Crews visited Tenth Street Thursday morning to talk to the fifth-grade class about leadership, perseverance and hard work.

The four men grew up playing baseball together, though Crews spent most of his baseball career as a rival to the other three. Now, Krueger plays baseball at Indiana University, and Shepherd, Aders and Crews are teammates at University of Evansville. This is the second consecutive year the four visited Tenth Street during their winter breaks. For them, visiting the fifth-graders is a way to give back.

“It’s cool for us to go back and give something to the kids that are still growing and dreaming,” Crews said.

Crews remembers being in fifth grade and looking up to the speakers that visited his school. Now, he realizes, today’s fifth-graders are looking up to him in the same way.

During the visit, the fifth-graders had ample time to interact with the college men. The morning started with a Q&A session in the gym, then the players joined the fifth-graders in the cafeteria for hot chocolate and autographs. The morning ended with an extra recess with the players.

During the Q&A session, the players found ways to weave advice into their answers. When a student asked about their least favorite part of baseball, the men all answered losing. Then, they explained how that competitiveness led to success.

Former Heritage Hills High School baseball player Kenton Crews talks to fifth grade students at Tenth Street Elementary in Jasper on Thursday.

“Everybody in here has some kind of competitive drive that you can use to be successful,” Krueger said.

Crews recalled a game where he was not performing well. He kept striking out at the plate, which was putting him in a bad mood. Then, toward the end of that game, he had a hit. He used the story to encourage the fifth-graders to push through failures.

“Baseball is such a game of failure,” Crews said. “But you just have to keep trying and do your best until you win. That’s true with anything.”

Fifth-graders Tyson Hunter, Beckett Holsworth and Korey Homes were all excited for the visit. Like the older men, the three friends play Little League baseball together. They all agreed it was cool to see the older players.

“We learned we should work hard for stuff,” Tyson said.

Fifth-grade teacher Eileen Meyer put the visit together this year and last year. Crews dates Meyer’s daughter, and the two talked about the visits as a way to reward the fifth-graders at the end of the semester. Crews convinced the other three to join him at Tenth Street last year, and all four were happy to return again this year. The visit may become an annual tradition.

“It’s just good to have a motivator for the kids and to show them that what they do really does matter,” Meyer said. “We [teachers] can talk, but it doesn’t have the same impact.”

Former Jasper High School baseball player Craig Shepherd, left, chats with Tenth Street Elementary fifth-grader Deveon Price at the school in Jasper on Thursday.



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