On any given day in the last 15 years, a wealth of athletic talent could’ve been found in Jake Schmidt’s backyard in Richmond.
Just a few houses down is where Evan Kratt lives. Across the street is where they could find Dillon McInerney. As far as their memories go, that backyard on Peggy Lane held games that were only the beginning to great athletic careers.
Really, really great athletic careers.
Now that the trio that grew up together has graduated as Blue Devils, they’re onto larger athletic stages.
Schmidt will take off next Tuesday to Yale University to prepare for his first collegiate football season. Kratt will head up to Central Michigan to play catcher for the baseball team. McInerney has yet to decide, but he will play baseball at either Oakland University, Jackson College or St. Clair County Community College.
Just a few hundred yards separated them growing up. Now, they’re a trio of Division I-caliber athletes.
Playing all day, every day
In the Schmidt’s backyard there lays more than the memories of the thousands of games that were played in the last decade and a half.
In the corner of the garden was where home plate used to lay. To the left was an apple tree that was a little crooked thanks to erratic golf cart driving by the then-teens. Further back was a shed that sits on the former green of their makeshift golf course. To the right is the now-rusty black foul pole behind a row of logs that was the home run fence.
In other words, it was an athletic kid’s dream.
“We would play (baseball) every day, and we never got sick of it,” Kratt said. “I loved it – we all loved it. It was pretty awesome.”
Even in the basement there hangs picture frames – too many to count – that are broken from some of the most intense ping pong games on the block.
“I have a hutch in my dining room that has all my grandma’s stuff, and I just put it up last year,” Felicia, Jake’s mom, said in her basement surrounded by dozens of glassless frames. “It felt finally safe to do that.”
Back in the day, life was almost perfect. Summer days had baseball in the early afternoon, swimming after that and riding in Dillon’s golf cart later in the evening.
“We probably put 100,000 miles on that thing,” Dillon said while Evan and Jake laughed. “No, seriously.”
There were also times where the games would get heated, but with three kids that grew up to be like competitive brothers, what else would’ve been expected?
“We would get so mad at each other, but we would just give up on hating each other in the day and relax in the (Schmidt’s) pool,” Dillon said. “We pushed each other out here and that showed in high school. It all started back here with us yelling at each other and pushing each other out here.”
That talent and fire also translated onto the Little League field where the trio, along with neighbor and soon-to-be-senior Stefan Fenwick, won back-to-back state titles.
Those championships are when the Peggy Lane crew started to realize how great of athletes they are, and the goals of playing big time college sports only grew from there.
Off to college
All three kids are going to realize their dreams of playing college sports within a few months, but there’s one problem with that.
They won’t be playing together like they have been for the last who-knows-how-many days.
“It’s going to be really weird,” Evan said. “Going from seeing them every day for the last 15 years to only seeing them only a couple months out of the year is going to be weird.”
As Felicia prepares for her youngest son’s grad party before he takes off for the East Coast next week, she can’t help to realize how emotional of a week it is.
“You’re so excited for them to go to the next level, but you’re just so sad it’s over,” Felicia said. “I consider all of them my kids, as well as Von (Evan’s mom) and Heather (Dillon’s mom).”
Of course, the ways to communicate today will make it easy for the crew to stay in communication through their soon-to-be busy schedules. In the winter the group is heading on a vacation, but they don’t know where they’ll head yet. Just somewhere warm.
Memory lane will always be there to visit too, and it will be clogged with the early games that sparked what are about to be college careers.
Sometimes cities will have one or two kids play Division I sports per year. But hey, a little pushing and yelling and constant playing are sending these three best friends that grew up in the same backyard to that level.
“That kind of shows as best friends we can push each other and be successful,” Dillon said. “If you push each other, have a good group of people around you and don’t get into bad things it can benefit you really well.”
Contact Matt Sheehan at (810)-989-6267 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter @Sheehan_Sports.