High school lessons prepare baseball prospect for future

By 
  • August 25, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - It was a school camping trip in Algonquin Park that helped baseball prospect Jerome Werniuk define his future goals and the leadership role he would like to take on in his life.

The 17-year-old Texas Rangers draft pick says leadership camps like the one he took with students from Toronto’s Neil McNeil High School have helped shape his outlook on faith, baseball and education.

Werniuk was the 604th player chosen in this year’s Major League Baseball draft.

Werniuk said the school’s motto, “Faith in hard times,” has taught him about the gift of perseverance which he has practised in life and baseball, especially during the tough times.

At this year’s graduation, he was awarded Neil McNeil’s Fidelitas Award which is given to a student who best embodies the school spirit. He has been involved with the school’s leadership program since Grade 9. Werniuk said volunteering with the program as a counsellor has taught him about responsibility.

At a leadership and fitness training camp in Algonquin Park last year, some 20 students braved the outdoors for five days and learned how to survive on their own. For Werniuk, the “best experience” was when the students were separated and left for eight hours to themselves. The pitcher for the Canadian Junior National Team used that time to contemplate his future and baseball career.

His time at Neil McNeil, along with a couple of “excellent religion teachers,” has encouraged Werniuk to engage in open discussions about ethics, philosophy and morality, his mother, Jane, said.

“He appreciated the fact that his horizons were much more broadened,” she said.

Neil McNeil and its leadership program also taught him “how to conduct yourself in a serious world,” she said.

His father, George, says an example of the maturity his son has gained over the years from his leadership training can be seen in Werniuk’s decision to accept a scholarship at LeMoyne College, a Jesuit university, instead of trying his hand immediately in the minor leagues. There Werniuk plans to study criminology.

 The Grade 12 graduate said attending a Jesuit school will help him achieve his academic goals and continue the Catholic education he’s received over the years.

Though taking the minor league route would include getting paid to play, Werniuk said he also has a desire to get all of the experiences he can at this stage of his life.

Jane said her son is a good role model for others and has a remarkable maturity for someone his age. She said he went through a rough time in trying to decide which American college to sign with and he learned from that experience.

His father adds that he’s happy with what his son has decided and pleased that he has chosen to attend a Jesuit school renowned for its academic excellence. It’s a “win-win situation,” George said. His son will get a college education and have a chance to play baseball, while leaving the door open to a professional career down the road.

 This doesn’t mean, however, that Werniuk’s baseball dreams are over. He will continue to play at the college level and is eligible to be drafted again by the pros again in his third year.

Werniuk credits his father for helping him along his baseball career as one of his first coaches. But George says his son’s success comes from keeping his cool on the mound and keeping his emotions in check, no matter the circumstances.

As for his future outside of baseball, Werniuk is considering a career as a police officer. A co-op placement last year helped him see how police work can “make a difference” in people’s lives, he said.

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