Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Monticello’s John Harned is putting up impressive numbers every which way for the Panthers, leading the team with a .455 batting average and throwing out 15-25 runners trying to steal. By the way, he also
is No.1 in his class with a 97.6 GPA.
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO May 3, 2013 While most high-school juniors in his position would be obsessing about attracting Division I college attention, Monticello catcher Jon Harned keeps a level head. "I refuse to get caught up in the whole Division I, Division II or III thing, says Harned, adding, "I just want to go to a good academic school with a strong baseball program."
If the junior's 97.6 weighted average (tops in his class) or his athletic ability have anything to say about it, Harned should have his choice of all divisions of colleges to choose from next year.
A member of the Monticello varsity baseball team since his freshman year, Harned says he's been playing baseball since six or seven years old. "In Little League I played in the outfield and a few other positions, but by the time I was 10 I started to focus on the catcher position," offers Harned.
He's been developing and improving his arm strength ever since, which this season has translated to a .600 average for runners caught stealing having gunned down 15 of 25 base-runners. In a mid-April double-header against perennial baseball powerhouse Cornwall, Harned gunned down five attempted steals, upping his tally at the time to eight out of nine on the season. Unheard of numbers at he high school level.
In addition to his defensive prowess, Harned is leading the Panthers in batting with a .455 average and ironically tops the team in stolen bases as well.
Harned is just happy the Monticello baseball team is back on solid footing and playing competitive ball after enduring last’s season’s tumultuous events surrounding the coaching position.
"Boy that was tough,” said Harned about the 2012 season. A lot of the guys wanted to just quit but we decided as a team that no matter who was going to take over for coach [Mike Marra] we were going to just keep doing what he [Marra] taught us."
A standout on the gridiron as well, Harned had to step in to some pretty big cleats this past fall when superstar quarterback Shane Jackson went down with a catastrophic knee injury at a high-school showcase prior to the season. A cornerback and reserve wideout for the Panthers, Harned would quickly show Monticello's tough coach, Matt Buddenhagen, his mettle beating out senior and anointed successor to Jackson Mike Rodgers for the starting QB spot. He ended a difficult season with 887 yards passing, 399 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.
Baseball coach Mikle Greco, who is also an assistant for the Monticello football team said, "Jon willingly stepped in for Shane, and even though he knew we had a very young [offensive] line, he filled in admirably for him. Regardless of how many hits he took back there, the kid never once asked to come out of a game. Never once did I hear him complain. I give him a lot of credit for the job he did back there."
"There was no way I could replace Shane and I knew that," says Harned. "We had a young line and all I could do back there was be Jon Harned not Shane Jackson. I went out there and just tried to do the best job I could for the team," he adds.
But to Harned who also runs indoor track for the Monties academics are his "number one priority."
Beside his top-in-class GPA, Harned is currently enrolled in five college level courses with four more scheduled for his senior year. With plans to enter into the medical field, Harned has been accepted into the prestigious New Visions Program at BOCES. "Shane [Jackson] is the one who introduced me to the program and since I want to do something in the physical therapy/sports medicine field, I think New Visions will fit in well with that," explains Harned.
He credits his mother a teacher at Monticello High-School for his laser focus on academics.
“My mom always pushed me hard to do well in school,” said Harned. “She always allowed me to have my fun and hang out with my friends, but she also always made clear to me that school was number one.”
With a whole senior year left for him to expand on his many academic and athletic accomplishments, Harned is sure to garner much attention from prospective college suitors, but he remains level headed, saying, "I can't wait for my senior year. Football, track and baseball. I think we're poised to have great seasons in all three. I know that nowadays [college] coaches want an athlete who's just as great in the classroom as on the ballfield. They want the best of both worlds and like my mother says: 'Without solid grades you're just a liability to the team."
Batting average: .455 (15-33)
Runs scored: 11
Stolen bases: 5
Strikeouts as batter: 1
Runners thrown out/catcher: 15-25
Grade point average: 97.6
Class rank: 1
Future plans: college, medical field