BY VICKIE OLDHAM
BHS catcher Jake Underhill
Booker High School’s baseball team and coach are reaping the rewards of unity, sacrifice, commitment, and hard work. The players are the Class 5A 11 District Champions after defeating a team from St. Petersburg. They earned 17 wins in the regular season. At the regional quarterfinals, they beat teams from Lake Placid and St. Pete Lakewood to push closer toward a state championship. The next stop is a game on the east coast of the state on Tuesday, May 10 in Melbourne.
BHS head varsity baseball coach Jeremy Schmidt was hired at Booker High four years ago. The 1999 Sarasota High School alumnus has coached baseball for eight years, half of that time was spent leading Cardinal Mooney High School’s team. After playing baseball at Manatee Community College (renamed State College of Florida), he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and also played for the Cincinnati Reds in the minor leagues for five years.
To the BHS seniors who joined the team in 2016, Schmidt set a goal to win a district championship and has accomplished what his predecessors could not in the last 13 years. “We are a tight unit,” the coach said. “We only have 12 players on the team. Everyone contributes every game. Every game, someone comes in big. I try to get the most out of my players no matter their individual skill level,” said Schmidt, an energetic, vocal, hands on leader. BHS Shortstop Cody Brown senses a different attitude among his teammates now after seasons of few wins. “We’re on a new level now. There’s a different atmosphere this year,” Brown said.
BHS catcher Jake Underhill feels what he describes as “high energy” on the field. “As a freshman, I did not think that there would be a single chance that we’d be where we are today; but coming into the season this year, I knew we’d have a good shot at it.”
BHS senior Hunter Johnson, a pitcher says confidence has changed the momentum of games. “In years past, if we were losing everybody gave up. I’ve seen it happen too many times, but I knew we could change it,” said Johnson who is heading to the University of Debuque in Iowa to play baseball and major in business. “I kept my head up knowing my team had my back.”
Another senior Micah Davis, a BHS pitcher sums up the team’s winning formula. “We have heart to fight through to the end of games. We’ve learned to stop blaming others for our mistakes. We are trying to be the best players we can be,” he said. Davis received a baseball scholarship to attend Ave Maria University to major in exercise science. “This is the best baseball year I’ve ever had. It’s amazing that we’ve come this far.”
The baseball players are sporting district championship tee shirts on campus preparing for another win next week.