Jake Tekavec is fiercely competitive.
That's the first thing you have to know about him, according to Crestwood baseball coach John Bakalar.
It doesn't really matter the activity -- Tekavec wants to win. Even as a freshman, Tekavec had to sell the most discount cards for Crestwood baseball games, Bakalar noted. When the Red Devils played basketball or hockey to break up the winter workout monotony, Tekavec had to be the best.
"He's one of the most competitive kids out there," Bakalar said. "He wants to win. He wants to excel."
Naturally, for a kid that intense, hitting .222 his junior year wasn't acceptable, even though catchers generally aren't expected to hit for a high average. The Crestwood catcher wanted to be an All-Portage Trail Conference backstop -- and Bakalar told him that no matter how good a defender he was, .222 wasn't going to cut it.
"He got a few hits toward the end of the (2016) season that he could build off," Bakalar said. "He said, 'I don't want to just be known as a defensive catcher. I want people to also recognize me for my offense.'"
Just in case Tekavec wasn't motivated enough, Bakalar showed his catcher the numbers for standouts like Mogadore's Austin Williams and Lake Center Christian's Nathan Wickline. Just like that, Tekavec had a lofty goal to chase.
"He really just wanted to be all-conference, to be in the same air as those guys and be better than those guys," Bakalar said. "He realized what he had to do to be up there with Austin Williams and Nathan Wickline."
Whether or not Tekavec garners First Team All-PTC County honors, he has certainly put himself in the conversation. With Crestwood's final game coming this afternoon, Tekavec is batting .406 with 22 RBI, 17 runs, seven doubles and seven stolen bases. In the field, he has been equally brilliant, allowing a single passed ball and throwing out more than half (nine of 16) of would-be base-stealers.
Those numbers didn't just come because Tekavec dreamed big.
He also got big, adding an estimated 15 pounds of muscle. Already growing, playing football in the fall only helped, especially when paired with his meticulous attention to what he eats.
"He's a little bit more defined, he's a little bit wider in his chest and so on and so forth," Bakalar said. "Baseball-wise, you see it when he's throwing the ball. It seems like there's a little more on it. When he's hitting the ball, it sounds a little bit louder."
To make sure he was ready for his senior season, Tekavec quit playing basketball, because, according to Bakalar, Tekavec felt like he didn't come into his junior campaign as prepared as he could have been. He focused on playing a fall sport, instead, to get in better shape. At first, it was going to be cross country -- then, the football team called. The Red Devils needed a quarterback.
Even then, as he sent moonshots down the gridiron for touchdowns, Tekavec said, "Just wait." As remarkable as his performance was under center, where he helped lead Crestwood football to a 9-1 record and a PTC County title, Tekavec knew his best was yet to come.
"A lot of us can have goals and that's great, but then you have to have a way to put it all together to achieve that goal and that's where a lot of kids fall short," Bakalar said. "He didn't take any shortcuts. He was willing to put in the work."