Pointing North: SSHS left fielder putting in extra work

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

May 1, 2007 - An avid dirt biker and future diesel mechanic, SSHS senior Jake North doesn't mind getting his hands dirty.

Or his uniform.

In fact, North's favorite part of playing baseball is "getting on base and running around the bases a little bit."

Fortunately, he's had that opportunity quite a bit this year, as he is batting .318 with an on-base percentage of over .400. He has four stolen bases and leads the Wildcats with three sacrifice bunts.

North, who started the season in center field before being taking over in left before district started, has been honing his skills at the plate even more this week in preparation for this weekend's bi-district series against Nacogdoches.

"I'm all about working hard," he said. "I've been going to Phil Jackson's house every day after school, trying to get my swing down. We've all been practicing hard, so we'll just have to see how it turns out this weekend."

The Wildcats (15-11), the third-place team in District 11-4A, will take on the Dragons (19-9), the 12-4A runner-up in a best-of-three series. Game 1 is set for 7 p.m. Thursday in Hallsville, with Game 2 scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday at Driller Park in Kilgore. Game 3, if necessary, will be 4 p.m. Saturday at Driller Park.

"I like playing baseball and don't want it to end," North said. "We've just got to work hard this week and keep going. I've been playing since I was 4 or 5 and always loved the game. "

North started out playing shortstop when he was in Dixie ball, but switched to the outfield as he got older. He has found a home for the Wildcats in left field.

Against Texas High last week, North gunned down a runner at home plate who was trying to score from second on a single to left, ending the inning and a scoring threat.

When he's not playing baseball, he likes riding dirt bikes. It was his interest in the motorcycle engine that directed him to what will be his career path: diesel mechanic.

He plans on enrolling at Kilgore College in the fall to learn the trade. He is currently in auto tech class at SSHS, and says he learned a lot about engines from his father.

"I've always loved to work on stuff. My dad helped me learn about dirt bikes. I learned a lot from him," North said. "I thought about dirt bikes, but diesels are bigger and I think it's something I'd like to do."

North and his younger brother Grayson, a sophomore who plays on the JV squad, also help with the foster children that their parents care for.

"It's a little different. You have new kids show up every once in a while, and they're all good kids," he explained. 'They're just looking for a chance.

"Me and Grayson hang out with them, let them play video games with us and stuff like that. We try to make them feel at home as much as possible. Some of them you get attached to more than others, and sometimes it's hard for them leave."

It will also be hard, he said, to leave baseball. So, he's doing what he can to extend the season as much as possible.

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