By Cindy Mindell
TRUMBULL – Once upon a time, there was a Jewish baseball player from Trumbull High School who pitched for an Ivy League university and was drafted by a Major League Baseball team. That player was Red Sox superstar Craig Breslow.
Now, it seems, history is repeating itself. Jake Levison, a senior centerfielder at Trumbull High School, is headed for the University of Pennsylvania and a spot on its baseball team.
“I have dreamed of playing college baseball my entire life,” Levison says. “And, being as competitive as I am, that dream was specifically to play Division 1 baseball, the most elite playing level in college sports.”
While always a strong student, Levison realized in high school that his academic abilities could help facilitate his goal of playing college baseball.
“So, as I continued to do well in school, I developed the lofty goal of playing baseball at an Ivy League school,” he says. “I recognized that – though still quite difficult – it was much easier for an athlete to be accepted to one of the most prestigious institutions in the country, and that if I could maintain my academic track record along with performing at a very high level athletically, then I had as good a shot as anyone to play at an Ivy.”
It was during junior year that Levison really focused on post-high school aspirations, keeping up a high grade point average and SAT scores and also training for baseball and working out with weights four or five days a week.
“This was not an easy feat, considering I was also a starter on the Trumbull High Varsity basketball team, but I certainly learned a great deal about time management and prioritizing,” he says.
In the end, Levison scored 2280 on the SAT, maintained a good GPA, and trained hard for baseball – all in the off-season. But the most important contributing factor to the Ivy acceptance letter was his performance during the summer following junior year. He went to a number of college showcases, professional scout team tryouts, and elite tournaments across the east coast. He competed in the 17u World Wood Bat Association National Championship in Georgia, playing against many of the best travel baseball teams in the country. He also participated in the Headfirst Honor Roll Camp, a baseball showcase for academically gifted student-athletes to perform in front of coaches from the best colleges in the country.
The showcases and tournaments generated a lot of exposure and resulted in offers from several coaches, but perhaps the most exciting event for Levison was the Area Code Games tryout at the New York Yankees’ minor-league stadium in Staten Island. There, a group of top Northeast athletes played in front of many Major League coaches, getting feedback and advice. Levison was the third-fastest runner out of more than 100 participants, and was interviewed for an article highlighting the top three performers of the event.
He attracted even more interest from college coaches and was invited to visit several schools, some of them Ivy League. In the end, he received a call from the University of Pennsylvania’s head coach in early August and was offered a spot on the baseball team. “I accepted immediately, as Penn was truly my dream school,” he says. “Beautiful campus, great social scene, second-to-none academics – and, not to mention, a whopping 30 percent Jewish student population.” A member of Congregation Beth El in Fairfield, where he annually reads Torah, Levison plans to be active in Penn Hillel and go on a Taglit-Birthright trip to Israel.
Now that he has accomplished one goal, his next dream is to be play in the MLB after college. He has already received phone calls from a handful of Major League teams, saying that they would follow his college career.
Since age 12, Levison has played on the Trumbull-based Xplosion Baseball travel team, and credits both his parents, Debbie and Craig Levison – for their love and support of his efforts on the field and in the classroom
– and his coach Joe Iannucci for helping him become the player he is today. “I wouldn’t have accomplished all that I have in baseball, nor would I have had all the opportunities for exposure in front of college and professional scouts, were it not for him,” Levison says.
“All in all, I could not be happier with my decision, and I have experienced firsthand that hard work really does pay off. I could not be more excited to spend the next four years of my life on what will undoubtedly be an incredible journey!”
“I hope to follow in the footsteps of Major Leaguer Craig Breslow, who went to Yale, got drafted by the Boston Red Sox, and is one of the best relief pitchers in the Majors,” he adds. “Did I mention that he was a Jewish kid who attended Trumbull High School? If he could do it, why can’t I?”
Comments? email firstname.lastname@example.org