By Brent Huelsmann
Start spreading the news, after almost three years at the helm, Jon Becker, the athletic trainer for Nashville Community High School, will be leaving. Becker accepted a one year contract to be an athletic trainer in the New York Yankees organization. Becker will mainly be working with the Staten Island Yankees, the short-season A-ball team. Becker is a graduate of McKendree University, and spent time in Washington before becoming the Hornets’ athletic trainer before the 2015 school year.
Becker said that his last game at the school will be Saturday, February 11, when the Hornets take on rival Pinckneyville at Assembly Hall. It will also be Senior Night. Becker will then leave for Spring Training in Tampa, Florida. Becker will be in Florida working with spring training, and extended spring training until the middle of June. Becker is going to be one of 13 athletic trainers in the Yankees organization, but will be the only trainer with the Staten Island Yankees once their season begins.
Becker said of the opportunity. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, my feet still haven’t touched the ground, on realizing that this is going to be a reality that I can go and jump into pro baseball and start off on that career path.”
Becker talked about what he will miss about Nashville.”I like the small town lifestyle, I’ve always lived in small towns. Everybody has made me feel like family here. I think that’s going to be the biggest part of it. Everyone is so passionate for their sports here at the high school, that it makes it fun to work games all the time, and you’re going out and competing, and everybody is really focused and driven to be the best they can be at sports. That’s going to be tough to leave.”
Becker went on to talk about NCHS Athletic director Wayne Harre, and Hornets’ football coach Tim Kuhn. “It’s going to be tough to leave Wayne (Harre). Having such a good athletic director like we have. I’ve been very lucky to work under him, and rent his house. Him and then TK (Tim Kuhn) is going to be at the top of the list too. He was the first sport that I worked with and me coming in as a babyfaced 23 year old. I walked into football practice on the first day, and he goes, If you see anything you need to change in our warmup or cooldowns, or what we do and how we do stuff, to make us perform at a higher level, just let me know. Walking into my first job, and having that kind of level of valuing my opinion, that was special. They’re definitely two of them who will be at the top of the list, but it’s hard to rank. I’m going to miss everyone a lot.”
Becker has spent just under two years at NCHS and talked about some of his more memorable moments in Nashville. “Winning the state title up there in Peoria with softball in my first year as an athletic trainer, was something I’ll never forget. Mack running all the way from first to home to score the winning run in extras was unbelievable, because we were not hitting that pitcher. I’ve never cheered so loud for a foul ball in my life until that game. But I think with the rivalry we had with Carterville, I think the Carterville win means a little bit more in that respect. To beat them on their home field in the manner that we did was pretty special. Especially with Maci being not in tip-top condition for that game. Then the New Berlin game for football, you can’t script it up better than that.It was pretty amazing to be in such a heavyweight bout with the rain coming down and the mud, and everything else with the mud, and everything else, that was pretty special.”
Harre talked about what Becker has meant to Nashville throughout his time here. “I don’t know. Do we win some games that we might lose without him, I think that’s a question because that’s how valuable he is. I know when we had our run in softball state, when we won the State Championship in ‘15 and went to 15 innings. He kept Maci Ingram loose, and made sure she was taken care of between innings. Those were just the small things that he did. When we had the bad concussion issue with Daley Buchanon, and those are just the few things that I really remember that comes to life right now for me. Besides that, he’s just a well rounded person. He’s easy to talk to. I think the kids if they have problems they know they can go talk to him. But at the same time, he doesn’t baby them. He gets them well, and back on the field or on the court. There is always a fine line how you’ve got to do that, and he knows what kind of level he has to be at. Either to push them a little or back off, so that’s a good characteristic to have.”
Becker said he found out about the offer on January 31, and Hornets’ baseball coach Chad Malawy was the first to officially know. Becker said he then told his parents and the administration to give them a heads up.
After the season is over, the Staten Island Yankees play 75 games between June 19 and the middle of September not including the playoffs, Becker will have the offseason to himself. As to what he will be doing, Becker said, “probably since I’ve never been to New York, I’ll probably take a week or two to travel around out there and make some stops on the way back. Definitely take some time to see my family, since I won’t get to see them for pretty close to eight months. And I would like to be back here, whether I do some substitute teaching, or help out as needed as an athletic trainer, or just be around the community again, I think it would be nice to come back.”
As for the actual job, Becker said that he expects to be doing a lot of the same things that he did while at NCHS, and is excited to get down there and get started. As for just focusing on one sport, Becker said. ““Its nice to have the variation at the high school level. You see different kids, and I love sports in general, so it’s been nice to work all of them, but it will be nice to not necessarily be focused in on one sport, but to be focused in on athletic training. That’s what I went to college to do, that’s what I wanted to do, and it will be nice to focus all of my time and energy on that.”
As for his replacement, Harre said that there is currently no plans and the board will discuss the matter.