Puppy Power: Part IV – Jayden Shertel of baseball

There were several freshmen who made an immediate impact on the 2022 Retriever baseball team. Matt Ryan took over the starting position at third base while Nick Remy and Eve Selmer played a key role on the pitching staff. But no player influenced the roster both on the mound and in the batter’s box Jayden Shertel.

The Mays Landing, NJnative appeared in 45 games, including 15 on the mound in his freshman campaign. He finished fourth among all qualified America East pitchers with a 4.41 earned running average and hit .301, driving in 16 carries. The conference coaches recognized Shertel’s work and selected him for the America East All-Rookie Team.

Shertel excelled on both the diamond and the griddle at Holy Spirit High School. He scored on the ground at Citizens Bank Park — where the Philadelphia Phillies were playing for a World Series title in 2022 — and won a state soccer title at Met Life Stadium from the New York Giants and Jets.

I figured 2:00pm would be a good time to talk to Jayden since our conversation was during winter break. Little did I know that Jayden’s family was on the last day of their trip to Hawaii and he hit the Google Meet button at 8:00am local time.

Levy: I appreciate you getting up early for this.

Shertel: It’s okay, I’ve been up for a while. It’s no problem.

Levy: How would you describe the transition into your freshman year? When you came to UMBC in fall 2021, did you feel prepared, especially with the pandemic impacting your high school career?

Shertel: I felt prepared, I was more excited than anything. In the beginning it was a bit of a learning curve just adjusting to a college schedule. Time management was the best. I’d say it took probably a month, then I got pretty good at it.

Levy: What are the biggest differences between playing college baseball and playing it in high school?

Shertel: The competition. In college you have to be included in every pitch. You need to know what everyone is doing, what you are doing, because one move could change the course of the game.

Levy: I’m sure you’re used to being in the lineup every day even if you haven’t advertised. Was there frustration when you weren’t in the starting XI?

Shertel: You always want to play as much as you can and I feel like I’ll always add value to the team no matter where I play or the order. But at the same time, it’s a team sport, so when I’m not on the line-up, I’m standing by the railing, cheering on everyone who’s in the game and enjoying the fact that everyone is getting their chance.

Levy: What would you say was your biggest challenge as a freshman and how did you respond to it?

Shertel: My first few pitches, it was a bit of a learning curve. I didn’t have my best stuff and got pushed around a few times, and I just had to accept adversity and understand that it’s part of the game. I got knocked down but always got up and learned from it each time. I grew from it and I’m glad it happened.

Levy: Jayden, is there an athlete who has inspired you to keep improving?

Shertel: Well, my favorite baseball player is Ken Griffey. Someone to go by is that type of guy.

But my father, we talk a lot. We talk after every game and he grounds me. He calms me down because I’m freaking out and he brings me back, he knows how to talk to me.

Levy: What advice would you give to a newcomer to this year’s team?

Shertel: It’s a long season. And that goes both ways. So number one, you have to take care of your body to make sure you can play at a high level for a whole season.
But it’s also a long season, which means there will be plenty of opportunities, so there’s no point getting upset after a few bad games or bad bats because you have so many more to do ready for that.

Levy: A few minutes ago we were talking about someone who inspired you. What about a current teammate who pushed you to get better?

Shertle: Tony Krueger and Connor Kelly. Two of our catchers. Catchers are selfless by nature.

They took me in last year when I was a freshman and showed me how to be a college baseball player. I talk to them about baseball all the time or just personal things. These are really good guys and staples on the team.

Levy: Do you have a favorite moment from your freshman season?

Shertel: I have two. My first start back in the Navy. I had a double (in my first at-bat). And our first and only playoff win in Maine when we beat Hartford.

Levy: I actually want to go into that. That was the first time you worked against Hartford in the ninth inning in your collegiate career. Before the ninth inning, did Coach Bowen ask you if you wanted to go out there, and if so, how was the conversation?

Shertel: I’m not sure if he asked me before the ninth inning, but he asked me a few times during the game. And it was earlier in the game, I think I gave up a couple of hits, and he said, “How are you feeling?”

“I’m like, I’m good.”

I want to ride as long as I can and that was something we talked about throughout the season that he found out about me and we communicated better. I want to stay in the game and I will get through it. I think I started working a little faster in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings and by then he knew he had to ride me as long as he could and we did.

Levy: Jayden, how would you describe the culture of UMBC baseball?

Shertel: It’s a close-knit group. We definitely spent a lot of time off the field and that adds to the chemistry on the field. I hope it lasts into spring and I have no doubt it will. It’s a great group of guys, I love being with them. We do a lot in practice. We have fun but we know how to work hard and focus.

Levy: What do you enjoy most about this sport?

Shertel: How hard it is. That’s my favorite thing about it. I talk about it all the time. It’s just so hard and it’s so hard to be good at it.

And the game itself really isn’t as important as the lessons that come with it. It’s just a baseball as a metaphor for life. And if you can settle down in a baseball game, you should have no problem making a career out of something.

Levy: I’ll see you when you get back to campus. Many Thanks. jayden

Schertel: Thank you.

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