Rocky Hulne: Southland duo is a prime example of what sports are for

Published 5:17 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

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We often talk a lot about student athletes taking ownership of their choices in and out of the realm of competition, but some of the best lessons athletes learn go well beyond sports.

In Southland, a couple of key baseball players have taken ownership of their playing field. You may have read about Riley Jax and Travis Kirtz in our annual edition of Progress, but if you haven’t you should know a little bit more about the duo — who have personified what it means to be a student athlete.

Jax and Kirtz spent last summer making improvements to their home baseball facilities as part of their senior project. Jax worked on the warning track on the outfield and Kirtz built a bullpen mound.

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Fast forward to this spring and Jax has emerged as the top pitcher for an unbeaten Rebels team and Kirtz is one of the heavy hitters in the lineup.

Jax and Kirtz don’t just play baseball either. They both played vital roles on the Southland football team in the fall and they were each on the Southland basketball team this past winter. Jax was a feisty defender in both sports and Kirtz was a body mover up front in football and the fan favorite in mop-duty in basketball as he would usually find a way to connect on a three-pointer to fire up the crowd in blowout wins.

These two have shown up every day, no matter the sport, and given it their all. They’ve also given back to their community with their additions to Southland’s baseball field, which will help grow the game for generations to come.

While state championships and Division I scholarships are often highlighted in today’s sports climate, athletes like Jax and Kirtz deserve the same amount of recognition.