WHEELERSBURG — Most children dream of what they want to be when they grow up and while they may seem like fantasies, every once in a while, that dream becomes a reality.
For Kyle Jenkins, his childhood dream came true when he signed to play baseball with Heidelberg University.
“I’m extremely excited. It’s been a dream ever since I was a little kid,” Jenkins said. “I’m just really happy I was able to pursue my dream and make it become a reality. It’s so surreal.”
The Wheelersburg senior chose Heidelberg after visiting the campus last fall.
“I took a college visit up there back in November. Immediately, I felt like I would fit in there,” Jenkins said. “The coaches were really nice and we had good conversations. I really enjoyed it and the atmosphere surrounding the university. I just felt like it was the right place for me to go.”
A major reason for Jenkins’ decision was playing time.
“Next year, I just want to play and (Heidelberg’s coaches) promised me that I would be somewhere on the field, whether it’s prime position at third base or in the outfield, where they know I can also play,” Jenkins said. “I just want to be able to play next year.”
Jenkins attributes his ability to play at the collegiate level to Wheelersburg baseball coach Michael Estep, who spent four years working with Jenkins to develop his all-around game.
“I’m going to need those skills in college because when I make a mistake, I can easily pick myself back up and make the next play,” Jenkins said. “I don’t get down on myself, which is what he taught me. Playing in college, that’s really important because the competition level is so much greater than high school.”
According to Estep, Heidelberg is getting a high-class person who commands the respect of his peers. Estep also credits Jenkins for learning to channel his competitiveness in a more mature way.
“One, in terms of him being a solid young man, from the time he’s been in our program, I’ve seen him grow in so many ways,” Jenkins said. “When he came into our program, he was a very competitive kid and he still is, but the biggest part is he’s learned how to channel that competitiveness in a more positive way. In terms of compartmentalizing that and using that to his advantage, he’s been able to do that much better over the last couple of years. That just speaks to the growth and maturity.
“In terms of being a high-character kid, he’s well respected around our school, in hallways. He’s an honor-society kid, which not only looks at your GPA and ACT — at Wheelersburg — that takes recommendations from teachers, which he’s been able to grab onto and have people speak on his behalf. He’s going to be academic all district for the second year in a row.”
This past season, Jenkins led the Pirates in the majority of offensive categories while helping his team reach the regional semifinals.
“For what he’s been able to do for us, offensively he’s blessed with some really good hands,” Estep said. “He’s been hitting in the three and four hole for the majority of the season. He’s delivered some big hits in tournament situations. Right now, he’s leading our team in home runs, RBIs, runs scored and doubles, so offensively he’s been one of the guys that has made us go this year.”
Jenkins’ dream became a reality because of the sacrifices he made — especially time away from friends and family.
“It’s been real time consuming trying to prepare myself. I’ve sacrificed a lot but it’s been worth it. My family supports me in anything I do … ,” Jenkins said.
Reach Chris at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.