North Linn baseball coach Travis Griffith keeps a box of baseballs on the office desk of his Walker, Iowa, home.
Each ball is carefully catalogued in the box with a sticky note that includes a date, an opponent of North Linn’s this season and a summary of a rare accomplishment by one of his players. Griffith keeps the baseballs stored there until the end of the season, when he’ll present each one to the players in a protected case.
Griffith has been doing this for a long time now. But this season, the task has become especially important.
Six of the balls belong to one of the state’s biggest stars: Jake Hilmer, a career record holder in two major hitting categories.
A star shortstop and pitcher for the Lynx, Hilmer has rewritten the state record books and etched his name in the national all-time lists as one of the most accomplished high school baseball players ever.
The nation’s all-time leader in hits as a high schooler? Hilmer.
The nation’s all-time leader in runs as a high schooler? … Guess who?
“We’re never going to see this kind of stuff again,” Griffith said.
At the very least, it’ll be a long while before Iowa sees a player with Hilmer’s resume.
And his work isn’t done yet. He can add to his legacy this week at the Class 2A state baseball tournament at Principal Park.
Hilmer ripped 70 hits as an eighth-grader, 64 as a freshman, 73 as a sophomore and 69 as a junior. He has 83 thus far this season through Monday’s 8-1 quarterfinal win over West Branch. The senior was 2-for-3 Monday with a pair of runs scored and an RBI. He also threw four shutout innings.
For his entire high school career, he has 359 hits. The National Federation of High School Associations doesn’t count the eighth-grade numbers, but he’s still at 289 for his ninth- through 12th-grade years. That’s a national record, breaking the previous mark of 277 by Jeff Malm, according to the NFHS record book.
His 296 career runs also passes the national mark of 269 recorded by Ricky Roberts. (He’d be at 365 if you could count his eighth-grade year.)
Hilmer also holds the state record for hits, runs scored, stolen bases and doubles.
“These records, they’re not a huge priority in my mind as of now,” Hilmer said. “I’m not playing the game to try to break these records or anything. I simply enjoy playing baseball, and I enjoy representing North Linn. I’m out there, and I’m playing the game and I’m never thinking about the record, thinking, ‘Hey, I need three more hits to do this record or I need to score this many more runs.’”