Baker student made impression as freshman teammate, student
That was the word Baker University upcoming sophomore Matt Fry used to describe former Baker teammate Tyler Jeck at a reflection ceremony July 19 in Osborne Chapel. Jeck died in a swimming accident July 16 at Beaver Lake in Arkansas.
Fry saw that determination in multiple disciplines, not only as a teammate of Jeck’s, but also as both shared time in the classroom as biology majors.
“As hard as he worked on the baseball fields, he worked twice as hard in the classroom it seemed like,” Fry said. “You know, I’ve always prided myself in how hard I was able to work on the field and off the field. I believe myself to be a hard worker, but he could take it to the next level. And we were both biology majors, so we had quite a few classes together and he really helped me get through a lot of the classes.”
Professor of Biology Darcy Russell, who was Jeck’s advisor, also had a word to describe Jeck, who was a straight-A student that was pursuing a career in medicine. Present. Russell chose this word because she said every moment counted to Jeck, and he was always in the moment.
“He had his priorities, he had a work ethic, he was dedicated to this school and he just didn’t let stuff get in the way,” Russell said. “But he still had fun.”
Other words were used to describe Jeck, from dedicated to fun. And while University President Pat Long admits she did not get the chance to know Jeck well during his first year, she remembers always seeing a smile on his face as he walked through campus.
“He was the epitome of a student-athlete and what we want to think about,” Long said. “If you could have this poster of what does it mean to be a student-athlete, you know, (you would) have his picture there because he was totally committed to athletics, obviously. … But to think about him being this super student. Pre-med. His desire was to help people.”
The impact Jeck had in his one year at Baker was seen in the attendees of the reflection ceremony, which ranged from administrators, members of the student development department and professors to members of the baseball team and head coach Phil Hannon.
Jeck’s impact on those who knew him was also seen at his funeral mass Monday morning in his hometown of Pittsburg, Kan., which was standing room only in the church. Among those at the church was the Baker baseball team and coaches, other Baker students who knew Jeck, Athletic Director Theresa Yetmar and Russell.
“I wouldn’t have missed knowing Tyler,” Russell said. “I’m going to miss him a lot and it’s going to feel so funny the first couple of weeks not to have him in the classroom, but I feel totally blessed that our paths crossed.”
Jeck was only at Baker one year, splitting time between the library and baseball field, but Hannon understood the impact Jeck had on the university, and not just the athletic side. In a speech Hannon prepared about Jeck, he ended by saying, “In one year at Baker University, the impact he made on our institution, the Baker family, and his teammates is profound.”
While Baker’s baseball season is months away, Hannon and players are planning ways to honor Jeck when the time comes to step back on the field. Hannon has dedicated the upcoming 2012 season to Jeck, and players have also discussed getting patches with Jeck’s initials on their jerseys and wearing practice T-shirts honoring Jeck.
“Once school starts and we start getting out to the field, working out as a team, I think we’ll be able to see it in each other how we’re all pushing it a little bit harder, a little bit stronger,” Fry said. “Where we’re looking up around at everybody else thinking, you know, Tyler could be with us right now. And the thing is he is with us, he is with us right there, telling us to push harder, push stronger. No one wants to disappoint him.”
Hannon recruiting Jeck to Baker and coached Jeck at Baker, but Jeck was not just a freshman player. Hannon considered Jeck, like the rest of the players on his team, one of his sons.
From the time Jeck called to tell Hannon he was coming to Baker, Hannon said he could hear the commitment in his voice.
“I knew the kind of kid I was going to get, and that’s why it just really hit me hard that I didn’t have an opportunity to spend more time with him, not because I wanted to coach him, because of the type of kid he was,” Hannon said. “You know, he made me be a better coach, he made his teammates better and it was just a joy to be around him because you know whatever it was, he was going to raise the level.”