Passion for playing

In just a few short months, freshman Jeremy Holzbach went from a walk-on position on the Bearkat baseball team to his current role as the starting shortstop.

And he did it all on a music scholarship.

Baseball and music have been a passion for Holzbach since he has had the ability to do them, and when looking for a college, it was imperative that he find somewhere he could participate in both activities.

He visited various schools in Texas and was offered music scholarships to many, but with some of them, there was not much of a chance for baseball.

“I auditioned at Baylor, UT and Centenary,” Holzbach said. “I was accepted to go to their schools of music, but I was not offered any money at Baylor or UT with the school of music. With Centenary, I received a scholarship there with music, but I was not able to pursue that just because of how expensive it was.

“However, within the baseball realm, I was really never given any attention in that aspect of being recruited or being invited to walk on,” he said.

When visiting Sam Houston State, Holzbach was offered a music scholarship, but the baseball team did not have any remaining. The coach at the time, John Skeeters, did give Holzbach the opportunity to play as a walk-on.

“At that point I didn’t think I was set in stone,” Holzbach said of making the baseball team. “I knew I was going to have to work hard to be able to get where I wanted to be, but I knew that once the decision was made with music and baseball, I knew this was where I needed to come.”

With SHSU, Holzbach saw exactly what he was looking for. All that he wanted was the opportunity to do the things he loves.

It has not been easy, though.

First, Holzbach had to earn a spot on the baseball team.

After feeling confident about his chances under Skeeters, he was hit with a bit of concern when he discovered that the coach was retiring. Once hearing the news, he was a little unsure of where he would stand with the new baseball coach, but after a while began to see the positives that it would bring.

“In a way, it was kind of good, but in a way it wasn’t,” Holzbach said. “The guys that were already here, they had played under (Skeeters) and now with him leaving, that kind of made everybody equal with the new coach coming in.

“Once I found out who the new coach was, I was real excited,” he said. “But I knew I was going to have to work hard to be able to get to where I wanted to be.”

Once on the team, Holzbach was not going to sit on the bench for the rest of the year. The freshman walk-on originally just wanted to get some playing time, but once the opportunity came to do a whole lot more, he grabbed hold of it and did not let go.

“Coming in as a reserve, I was just happy to be playing,” Holzbach said. “In the third game of the series (against Dallas Baptist), I started at short. I played really well that day, and when I got that chance, I wasn’t going to let that go.

“I was given that opportunity again (to start) when we went to Texas Pan-Am,” he said. “That next week when we had been playing a lot of games, I really wasn’t expecting to be that everyday starter. But like coach Rupp says, you’ve got to come to the field every day expecting to be on that lineup card and ready to go. Once I made that aware to myself and really got that into my head, that’s when things started to work out.”

One struggle for Holzbach is simply trying to find the time to fit in everything he needs to get done.

They typical day for Holzbach begins at 8 a.m., with his first classes begin. Class lasts until 2 p.m., when he immediately jets off to baseball practice. Practice ends at 6 p.m., and if he is lifting weights afterwards, he will not get back to his room in Kirkley until 8 p.m.

“I have 8 a.m. classes, so it’s not always easy to get up,” Holzbach said. “But I’ve had to make myself get up and go to class and get my things done, and I’ve been able to maintain good grades.”

The freshman is quick to point out that he cannot do this on his own.

Holzbach said the only reason he is able to be active in both baseball and music is because so many people are willing to work with him.

From the beginning, he told new baseball coach Chris Rupp and Director of Choral Studies, Dr. Allen Hightower, of his situation. Both were willing to work around his demanding schedule, and Holzbach acknowledges that without their generosity, balancing the two activities would never be able to work out.

“I made it aware to Dr. Hightower from the get go. I gave him my schedule, we worked around things so that I wouldn’t have this conflict with baseball in the spring,” Holzbach said. “I really think that Dr. Hightower scheduled a lot of things around my schedule so that things didn’t conflict and that was great for me, and I appreciate him so much for that.”

In addition to help from others, it takes a great amount of personal discipline and dedication to even survive at the two. Holzbach, however, takes it one step further.

Not only does the freshman want to survive, he wants to take full advantage of the opportunities given to him.

“God has blessed me with many talents and I thank him every day for that,” Holzbach said. “I’ve always considered myself an entertainer. So when that opportunity is given to me, I’m the first to snatch it up. If you’ve been blessed with a talent, you shouldn’t hold back. I was able to do all that in high school and that’s what I want to continue doing because I don’t know what I would do if I had to give one up.”

Though still in his first year of college, the shortstop has already learned valuable lessons that will carry on even after he leaves SHSU.

“The freedoms are nice,” Holzbach said of the college life. “But the biggest thing I’ve learned is the responsibility you have to take on. To be able to get to where you want to be, you have to be responsible and to be successful, you have to have a work ethic and that’s what I think has made me overcome the obstacles that have been thrown at me this year.”

Anyone with great talent has drawn inspiration from somebody. There is always someone who encourages a person to take full advantage of his/her ability. That person for Holzbach has been his brother, Micah. Micah went through a stroke when he was 1-year-old, but has never let it hold him back from anything.

“I have a lot to look up to,” Holzbach said of his brother. “My brother, who is my hero, had a stroke when he was a year old and he’s 23 now. I look up to him, because he’s such an inspiration to me.

“He’s someone I’ve looked up to since I was little, because he doesn’t let anything get in his way,” he said. “He played baseball up through high school and doesn’t let his disability get him down. That’s been something that’s been a real help to me, to know that my brother, even with his disability doesn’t let anything get him down.”

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