Jason Stewart didn’t make the varsity baseball team at Latrobe High School as a junior this spring.
He spent most of the season playing for the junior varsity, but Stewart made the best of the situation. Now, he’s reaping the benefits.
Stewart will represent the Unity American Legion team at the All-West All-Star Game on July 7 at Butler’s Pullman Park. He will try to advance to the East-West All-Star Game on July 24 and 25 in Harrisburg.
At Wednesday’s tryout at Clearfield, Stewart was one of 19 players selected from Region 6, which comprises Westmoreland, Indiana, Jefferson, Somerset, Cambria, Blair, Bedford, Centre and Clearfield counties.
“Getting picked means a lot,” he said. “College and professional baseball scouts are looking at me. That’s never happened before.”
Stewart, who also wrestles and plays football at Latrobe, got caught in a numbers crunch this season, with eight seniors on the varsity. Stewart did get called up a few times, but playing at the junior-varsity level helped him hone his game.
“My junior-varsity coaches (Matt Musiak and Tom Turnbull) helped me out a lot,” he said. “They taught me a lot of little things, like proper swing mechanics. I’m proving to myself that I can play. I made it through a couple tryouts. I didn’t realize I was that good.”
Unity manager Ed Guzik said Stewart is a special player who does everything he asks. Stewart is batting .444 with eight RBI, two doubles, a triple and a home run.
“There is no quit in Jason,” Guzik said. “He’s the first one at practice and always comes ready to play. He’s involved in the game. He knows game situations, which makes him pretty unique.”
Stewart plays left field, but Guzik recently moved him to center to take advantage of his speed. During the tryouts, he was timed at 6.8 seconds in the 60-yard dash. He also has a strong arm, and Guzik said he puts the ball in play.
“Against Irwin on Thursday, he beat out an infield hit to the pitcher,” Guzik said. “The pitcher took his time, and Jason didn’t give up on the play. …
“His speed has a lot to do with his all-star selection. He’s a quick kid and is smart.”
Stewart said he likes center field because it lets him be in charge.
“I like knowing what’s going on all the time,” he said. “I knew I was quick. I didn’t know I was that quick.”
No matter the scenario, Stewart tries to make the most of it.
“I just like playing,” he said. “I’m just happy I’ve made it this far.”