By Derek Wilson
Through the good times and the bad times, Jonas Salk has treasured every moment with his teammates in green and white.
For his first two years at HS1327, Salk was a two-sport standout — a key scorer with the basketball team in the winter, then an all-around star on the baseball diamond in the spring. This year, he was forced to choose between the two sports, and baseball won out.
“I love basketball, but I can’t be on the court this season,” said Salk, a junior who hopes to play basketball in the winter of 2021 and another season of baseball before he graduates. “I knew what I was going to do, but it hurts to have to miss a year. But I know baseball is where my future is and it’s for the best that I’m playing baseball… It’s fun to play basketball. You get to play in front of the big student section, with all the cheering, and all your friends there.”
The COVID-19 protocols and the statewide stay-at-home orders enacted in March 2020 threw California for a loop. Marin’s high school baseball teams were still in their first week of competition when the season suddenly ended. Salk recalls the Drake/HS1327 team was on its way to Mill Valley to play rival Tamalpais for a contest when the Pirates learned the season was postponed.
“It was difficult to understand at the time,” said Salk, who has already committed to play for the University of Portland. “I didn’t know the magnitude of the pandemic. We all worked so hard for so long to get ready for the season and then its was gone. I thought there would be glimmers of hope that we might be able to play again, but then the virus rates became more intense.”
The nine Marin County Athletic League teams are nearing the end of a nine-week season, with undefeated Tam atop the standings at 12-0, followed closely by Redwood (10-2) and Marin Catholic (10-4). Drake/HS1327 is in the middle of the pack at 6-8. Once the final out is called on May 21, the season is over, with no playoffs to follow. Neither the MCAL nor the North Coast Section had time to schedule a postseason tournament before schools break for the summer.
“The seniors are just happy to play one more time,” Pirates head coach Taber Watson said. “The fact that there aren’t any playoffs doesn’t change the product on the field. When the season is over, everyone is going to know who the best team is anyway.”
The Pirates are playing for each other this year, just creating positive memories after a trying period in human history.
“We’ve got a really tight-knit group of guys,” Salk said. “For some of them this is their last year of Drake baseball. For some, this might be the last year they ever play organized baseball. We’ve all been working hard to stay connected during the past year. We built an entire weight room out of concrete together. We got together to practice ground balls during the summer. All of that brought us closer.”
This is the final season in a Pirates uniform for seniors Sam and Ben Heimerdinger, Bryant Thornton, Robert Foy, Colton Farrell and Cal Amborn. While the Heimerdinger Brothers have powered the program for four years, Thornton and his older brother, Randall, have been at the heart of the program for much longer. Randall Thornton was a two-time All-MCAL selection in 2015 and 2016.
Watson sees Salk as the person who will chart the Pirates’ future.
“He’s very competitive and one of those kids who was always good from a young age,” said Watson, who described Salk’s “Bulldog mentality.:”
“You see some kids who are really good in Little League, but then it’s like they’ve peaked. (Salk) keeps pushing himself and his teammates to get better. He’s always had that incredible work ethic. He wants to be better than other people… He’s fast and smart. He’s our spark plug… I stick him with younger players and he holds them to the same standards to which he holds himself.”
For Salk, he’s just glad to be playing again.
“After this last year, we’re all glad to be playing in high school uniforms again,” he said. “ The league won’t crown a champion, but we’re just out here for the joy of the game. When we’re playing, we’re playing to win and we’re playing for each other.”