Baseball: Lake Central's Jimmy McNamara is the P-T Player of the Year
BY Mark Lazerus 648-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org June 23, 2012 10:48PM
Jimmy McNamara, photographed Wednesday June 20, 2012, helped lead Lake Central to their first state championship. The pitcher is the Post-Tribune Baseball Player of the Year. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 23, 2012 9:54AM
Every time he takes the mound, before he even throws a pitch, Lake Central’s Jimmy McNamara turns around, kisses his hat and points to the sky.
The kiss is for his girlfriend, whose initials are inscribed on the hat. The skyward point is for Paige Kuersten, one of his closest friends, who died after a Memorial Day weekend car accident two years ago. Kuersten — who attended Lake Central for two years before moving to Marian Catholic — and McNamara were best friends since sixth grade.
And even after two years, it’s still a meaningful gesture for McNamara.
“Every time, I still take something from it,” he said. “I’m lucky to be pitching and playing baseball and doing something I love. Something so crazy like a car accident can change everything. You have to be thankful for what you have, and enjoy it.”
That’s a life lesson McNamara takes to the heart. Nobody ever seems to be having more fun on a baseball field than he does. Nobody ever seems as happy to be out there, no matter the situation, no matter the pressure — the relentless fist-pumping, the post-inning chest bumps on the way to the dugout, the omnipresent grin, braces and all.
Of course, McNamara had plenty to be thankful for this season, plenty to enjoy. The left-handed Indians ace capped his tremendous three-year varsity career with a three-hit, 1-0 shutout of Roncalli at Victory Field in the Class 4A state championship game, leading Lake Central to its first baseball title.
It was just a typical outing for McNamara, who finished the season with a 10-1 record, a 0.82 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 76.2 innings pitched, combining with Taylor Lehnert to form the best pair of aces the region has ever seen. McNamara was no slouch at the plate, either, with a .303 batting average and 20 RBI in limited action.
For his gaudy numbers and dominant efforts against the best teams the region — and the state — has to offer, McNamara is the Post-Tribune Player of the Year.
“It’s kind of crazy,” McNamara said. “I don’t know if it’s all actually settled in yet, even the state championship thing. I figured it would when I woke up on Monday and didn’t have to go to practice, but it still feels surreal. You’re chasing this whole dream for years, then you actually have the opportunity to get it and you win. It’s hard to describe.”
McNamara still remembers being a nervous sophomore making his first start against Lowell. LC coach Jeff Sandor poked his head into one of McNamara’s classes and told him he’d get the start that day — hardly any warning at all.
He struck out 12 in five innings.
“Sophomore year was kind of like a wakeup call that I can compete with these guys — not only compete, but do pretty well,” he said.
He only got better. He have up just one earned run during the regular season last year and no-hit LaPorte. His one bad game came in the regional semifinal against Elkhart Central — a loss he gleefully avenged in the regional this season.
Now, it all starts over again. The supremely confident McNamara will again be the nervous underclassmen as he and Lehnert head to Central Michigan in late August. If history is any indication, though, he’ll do just fine — and he’ll enjoy every second of it.
“I’m really excited to see how it is, but I’m kind of nervous,” he said. “At the same time, I’m hoping it’s going to be the same kind of experience, the same outcome. I feel I left a good mark on Lake Central, and I hope to leave a good mark on Central Michigan by the time I’m done.”