NIACC sophomore first baseman Bryce Ball bends over to sign an autograph.
The girl with the blue glasses and blonde hair beams as she hands him her baseball.
This is something Ball might have to get used to at the next level, whether at Dallas Baptist next year or the major leagues down the line.
But he’s a local Newman Catholic boy, where baseball is blood and the fans never stop coming.
“It’s a lot of fun to see people who were at Newman games come out and support us,” Ball said. “Cool for me and Ben and I’ve stayed at home the past couple years.”
Former Newman Knight, Ben Fitzgerald, had just finished his interview. The two were standing together, so when asked about Ball, Fitzgerald says, “Oh yeah he’s been the best.”
“I want that quote in there.” Ball said to the reporter.
Fitzgerald laughs, but he will admit that having someone like Ball on the team is an added source of comfort.
“It actually does help a lot because we have had a lot of experiences together and he knows how to help me and he knows if I’m struggling or whatever he knows what to say,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve gotten more used to higher level playing and with that comes struggle, but I think that’s good in everything because it kind of helps you grow more.”
Fitzgerald’s last couple of weeks have displayed his growth into playing at the next level.
He had an impressive showing against Ellsworth on May 4, where he went three for five, including two home runs and a double for three RBI. He’d also gone three for four at Iowa Lakes on April 29, including a triple and two RBI.
“Ben didn’t have the best night tonight, but last couple weekends he’s had some big at-bats for us, so that’s good to see.” head coach Travis Hergert said.
Ball also adds that Fitzgerald’s hitting has become more polished since the first day he stepped on campus.
And an aggressive offense is part of the NIACC formula for success.
Ball went one for two in the 15-6 victory over Luther JV that night, including a home run. When looking for a school for next year, he wanted a program with the same formula, one that strived for the double-digit runs like NIACC has done in the past six straight games.
“It [Dallas Baptist] fits right into what we do here,” Ball said. “It’s a very good hitting school and we are here too and once I saw that I went down here to check it out, basically a no-brainer.”
NIACC’s local talent expands on that.
Former Mason City Mohawk, freshman Carson “Chip” Parker added a one-for-one performance at bat for a double.
Parker has been battling a wrist injury since last season, which stemmed from a broken thumb surgery which sat him out half of last summer.
But he says that NIACC has been a good experience so far, noting that both his injury and experience on the field have helped him grow mentally.
“I learned that the mental side of the game is actually way bigger than you think and shows a large portion of the game,” Parker said. “For me, it’s just a lot about recovering from my injury... I think we’re starting to make progress on it, might have to get surgery this summer because it’s still bothering me, but I’m able to continue playing.”
Parker says that the program welcomes guest speakers as a part of mental training once a week in the offseason, which made him realize how much more advanced the world of college baseball is.
But he’s also learned that it’s not always about baseball. Some of the kids walk by him for a high-five.
“Like this, where you interact with the kids,” Parker said. “It teaches you how to be a better person and prepares you for the future.”
While Parker and Fitzgerald will be on the team next year, Ball is still taking in that this is his last season at NIACC, last season at home.
It means a lot to wear the uniform of your hometown, but it’s also special to share growth at the next level with teammates they’ve played their whole career with.
“Admit I’m the best Fitzgerald that you’ve played with,” Fitzgerald said.
“It’s been a good two years,” Ball said with a smile.