MASON CITY — To say Ben Fitzgerald had it easy on the Newman Catholic baseball team over the past few years would be a stretch. In fact, most of everything he went through was far from it, from battling injuries to putting up the prolific numbers.
But when it was all said and done, easy was the way Fitzgerald made it look, and it’s earned him the Globe Gazette’s Player of the Year.
“At the plate, he battled and battled and battled and had a huge year, but that’s what I expect out of those guys,” Newman coach Alex Bohl said. “What a great career, and I just look forward to (this team) continuing to grow as ball players.”
Battling is something Fitzgerald got used to on the baseball diamond.
He missed more than half of his junior season with an injury, and then this year, got hurt in the first game and was limited to just batting until a couple weeks before postseason time.
But what he did at the plate was remarkable.
In a Newman baseball program that has had some big names come through it over the years, the year Fitzgerald put out has him right up there near the top.
He shattered the school’s single-season doubles record with 29, which led the entire state, regardless of class. And when the Knights needed somebody to come up and drive runs in, he delivered. Fitzgerald finished the year with a state-leading 70 RBIs, which is one of top in Newman history, even out in front of Bryce Ball’s 67 from the year before.
“It’s just the amount of time that he puts into his swing, and having a great approach day in and day out and wanting to be in big situations,” Bohl said. “Doing all those little things off the field that it takes, he put in the time and the effort and it paid off. There’s not much more you can say because the work he put in is incredible.”
Now, Fitzgerald gets the chance to prove what he’s made of at the next level. And he’ll get to do it for a NIACC program which has had a penchant for turning already good players into Division-I caliber guys.
“I think the thing that stands out the most is I could watch his swing on repeat all day,” NIACC coach Travis Hergert said. “He has the ability to drop the ball on every part of the field, and the next step for him is the physicality to where he can put on 10 to 15 pounds to keep on doing what he was doing.”
Other than Fitzgerald’s natural swing, the thing that stands out to Hergert is Fitzgerald’s versatility.
When he came back from his shoulder injury this year, Fitzgerald played a little bit at first base and then moved back to his shortstop position once his arm could hold up on those long throws.
Once he arrives and gets to work with NIACC, Hergert sees him as a guy who could play anywhere in the infield or even a corner outfield spot.
“He’s just a talented, talented kid and we’re happy he’s staying home,” Hergert said.