For most of his junior year, T.J. Ward was getting solid looks from Ivy League schools such as Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania. It appeared as if the standout St. Peter’s Prep shortstop was all set to become an Ivy League baseball standout.
But something changed in Ward’s recruitment. The two-time All-Hudson Reporter honoree, first as a first baseman as a sophomore and last year as a shortstop, when he was named as Reporter Player of the Year, took a visit to Temple and knew that’s where he wanted to go.
“I had a great visit there,” Ward said. “I was very comfortable with the coaching staff. They’re moving into the AAC and they’re playing legitimate programs. It was the best fit for me as a whole.”
Last week, Ward gave his verbal commitment to attend Temple in the fall of 2014 on a scholarship.
“I felt comfortable with the other schools, but Temple was right at the top,” said Ward, who batted .430 with four homers and 28 RBI for the Marauders last spring, as the county champion Marauders enjoyed the finest season in school history.
Ward was impressed that Temple had his major (education, sports management), so that helped in the decision. He was fielding offers from NJIT, LIU-Brooklyn as well as Penn and Dartmouth.
“It was a tough decision not to go Ivy League,” said Ward, who would have had to accept an academic/athletic package, since the Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships. “But this was the right move.”
Ward, who spent the summer playing for the Jersey Seminoles, a top-flight AAU program in Bergen County that also features Hudson Catholic pitching ace Brandon Pilovsky, said that he started to realize last summer that he had a chance to be a Division I player.
“It was always a dream for me,” said Ward, whose uncle Ed was a long-time college baseball coach and still conducts camps and clinics in the area. “I started to get contacted last summer and that’s when I knew it was real.”
Ward said that he was very pumped up to play for the Marauders last spring, especially since he was going back to his natural and true position.
“Coach [Pat] Laguerre sat me down before my sophomore year and told me he wanted me to get some playing time and help the team,” said Ward, who batted .329 with 21 RBI as a sophomore. “I was willing to play first base. But coming into this past year, Coach told me that I was his guy and he needed me to step up and be a leader.”
Laguerre and Ward have shared a solid relationship for a long time.
“He’s known me since I was in diapers,” said Ward, whose father John is a long-time friend of Laguerre.
Since his college decision is out of the way, Ward can now concentrate on having a great senior year at Grand and Warren.
“It’s huge,” Ward said. “I don’t have to worry about who’s watching me and what they want. I can just go out there and have fun my senior year.”
Ward knows that the stigma changes once a player makes a commitment to a Division I school.
“There’s a little bit of pressure that comes with being Division I,” Ward said. “People look at you in a different way. I can’t let that bother me. I just have to play.”
Ward will continue to better his game with the Seminoles for the rest of the summer. The Seminoles play a highly competitive schedule throughout the country.
“It’s all good,” Ward laughed. “Good things are happening.” …
The Hoboken Shockers’ attempt at winning the RBI Softball World Series in Minneapolis fell a little short Tuesday, when they dropped a heartbreaking 4-3 decision to Houston in the quarterfinals.
The team won two games at the tournament, but saw their run end in walk-off fashion.
The Shockers, who have qualified for the World Series in each of the last four seasons, lose eight girls to age restrictions, but veteran coach Vinnie Johnson promises that his team will be back and competitive again next summer…
This concludes the summer-long EXTRA INNINGS series. Once again, it was a successful feature for the summer months, thanks to the dedicated coaches and athletes who play baseball and softball during the summer. EXTRA INNINGS will return next summer…--Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.