BY ETHAN LILLARD
DONNELLSON – Many fathers dream that one day their son or daughter will not only follow in their footsteps, but be even better at everything they do in life.
Jason Hawk and Jason Hopp set the bar high for their sons, having been a part of the Class 3A baseball state title team in 1989 when they went to Central Lee. Thirty years later, their sons Jaden Hawk and Tyler Hopp are following in their father’s footsteps, as Central Lee was back in the state tournament this season.
“Honestly, it’s crazy, it really is,” Jason Hawk, who is an assistant coach on this season’s team, said. “These boys have worked so hard. I just want it for them. It’s deja vu, it really is.”
There are many similarities between the 89 team and this season’s team. The fact both Hawk and Hopp have a son on the team just scratches the surface of the irony.
Jaden Hawk played shortstop. His dad played shortstop. Jason was a junior when Central Lee won state. Jaden was a junior this season. Central Lee had to get past Davis County to make it to the state tournament in 89, this season’s team had to get past Davis County. The 89’ squad had a rain delay against Davis County. This season’s team had a rain delay against Davis County. In 89 the Hawks had two seniors, five juniors a sophomore and a freshman starting. This season’s team had three seniors, four juniors a sophomore and a freshman starting.
“It’s just crazy how similar these boys are to us,” Jason Hawk said. “Nobody ever picked us to do anything. We really didn’t get the credit and stuff for how good we were and the same with these boys. They’re not getting the credit. These boys are good.
“Up and down the lineup, there’s nobody hitting under .300. That’s the way we had it. You didn’t care who was up to bat, you knew they could hit the ball back then and now. Each one of these kids contribute like we did.”
While all the similarities seem uncanny and may almost seem like pre-determined destiny, both fathers know that the reason this season’s team went to state is all the hard work they put in, not the genes they inherited.
“These boys have controlled their own destiny,” Jason Hopp said. “They’ve put in the hard work and the time and the effort. They control what they can control. We’ve hit the ball good all year-long, we’ve had good pitching and we’ve had a good defense.
“These guys have put the extra time and effort in so I would say they are in control of their own destiny.”
As a matter of fact, both fathers think this seasons squad is even better than the team that brought home the state title in 1989.
“He says we’re a lot better than his team was,” Jaden Hawk said.
“He’s a lot better than I ever was,” Jason Hopp said about his son with a laugh. “He’s a big strong kid. I wasn’t that big in high school. Weightlifting has been a big push here now … I’m very proud of where he’s come from his freshman year to now. He’s definitely a lot better than the old man ever was.”
While Hawk was aware of the fact this marked the 30-year anniversary of Central Lee’s state title, he made it a point to keep it to himself and not make the kids feel pressured.
“When I got hired as an assistant coach last year I told the athletic director and Shane that I wouldn’t bring it up,” Hawk said. “I don’t want them to compare themselves to us. There’s no reason to do that. It’s a different era, different team, a different way to play baseball.
“We’ve talked about it a lot more now because I never did bring it up. I don’t want these boys to have any pressure and think they’re comparable to us because in my opinion, this team’s better than we were. They are fast. We were decently fast, these guys steal a lot of bases, but they hit the ball.”
With Hawk getting an up close and personal view of how things have been the past two years, this seasons state run has come as no surprise to him. As a matter of fact, after last year’s gut-wrenching playoff loss, he let the boys know they were going to come back even better this season.
“I told them after last year’s defeat at sub-state that we would be better this year than we were last year,” Hawk said. “I don’t know why I thought that. Maybe it was the work ethic that these boys have compared to some other years in the past. They knew they could do it. They fought all the way through to work, they knew they could and they keep working. That’s what it takes, a lot of work.”
Hopp also never had a shred of doubt that his son was capable of helping lift the Hawks to their former glory.
“Yes,” Hopp said. “Four or five years ago they were on a traveling team as 13- and 14-year-olds. They played in the small-town tournament and went on to a World Series deal. They did a good job there, but you could tell they bonded well and had the talent at that age.
“At that age, they knew how to play the game. They were smart about what they were doing and could hit the ball and field the ball. I never had a doubt they would have an opportunity.”
While the Hawks came up short Monday in a 9-7 defeat at the hands of Des Moines Christian, this is still a memory this season’s squad will have for the rest of their lives. It’s not every day a team gets to compete under the bright lights of Principal Park at the state tournament.
“It is something they will remember for the rest of their lives,” Hawk said. “I can remember like yesterday winning and jumping on top of the pile and everything. It’s crazy how you remember it so vividly.”