JOLIET | Amid the bedlam, backslapping, hugging and smiling faces, Mount Carmel senior Jason Gasser stood at the pitcher's mound and soaked up the moment.
He just watched, then cracked a smile.
That is his way -- all work.
The senior from Dyer became the first Mount Carmel athlete to win a state title in football and baseball in the same school year. Heck, the Caravan is the second program in IHSA history to do so.
Belleville Althoff won the 1990 Class 3A football title and Class A baseball title.
Gasser was a three-year starter on the football team which won the Class 8A title in November, and a four-year regular and three-year starter on the baseball team which beat Libertyville 2-1 Saturday at Silver Cross Field to win the Class 4A state championship.
It marked the program's first baseball state title.
“That is what I was working for since I came to Mount Carmel -- to win state championships,” Gasser said. “That is one of the reasons I came here.
“It is not just about me, this was a team win, a Mount Carmel win. This is what the seniors have worked for for four years.”
This indeed was special for Gasser, who said Western Michigan and Northern Illinois are giving him serious looks for baseball. Ball State has asked him to become a preferred walk-on.
Not having a scholarship in hand does not bother him, because he never really focused on it. He was too busy doing things to make his team a winner and that is something a college coach might take note of.
Most kids go four years or their entire athletic careers and never even win a conference championship, yet alone two from two different sports in the same year.
“I just can't describe how happy I am right now,” Gasser said. “I can tell you this -- this is great for the whole school. We came up a bit short (in football and baseball) as sophomores, so we knew what it was like to not win.
"We wanted to walk off the field here in Joliet with a state championship.”
Gasser came up big again Saturday as his double down the left-field line scored classmate Jerry Houston, who was hit by a pitch, for the game's first run.
“How about those catches he made out there?” Caravan coach Brian Hurry said. “That doesn't show up in the box score. Not to mention just how much Jason is a leader, all my seniors are. He does his job.”
That is what he has constantly preached to is teammates, except Gasser also walked the walk.
He epitomized what this team was about and he did his job and did it well. He made a lot of flyballs look easy because of his knowing where to be and getting a good jump on the ball. Maybe that comes from being a wide receiver and defensive back.
He also said playing for Hurry in baseball and Frank Lenti in football was just a great experience.
“Two of the best coaches in the state and I had the opportunity to play for them,” Gasser said. “How lucky am I? I had a great career and played for two great guys who taught us a lot more about life than just football or baseball.”
It is no doubt Gasser learned from his coaches as well as his teammates. I am sure his teammates learned a lot about him. In the future, both Hurry and Lenti will be referring to someone as “having Jason Gasser-type qualities.”
That is simple: The will to compete and win.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.