Holliston’s Balewicz More Than A Four-sport Athlete
Holliston QB Kevin Balewicz is an adept passer who can also run effectively. Photo by KEN ROBINSON
An Honor Student & Two-sport Captain
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Kevin Balewicz is closing in on a very unusual achievement — a four-sport varsity athlete.
The Holliston senior would have played football last fall, then continued with hockey and baseball if these were normal times. But, they’re not because of the covid-19 pandemic. So, the 18-year-old Balewicz decided to play golf last fall after football was moved to the Fall 2 season. He went from golf to hockey for the winter, then put on his cleats for football during March and April. Later this month, the Holliston native will be at pre-season practice for baseball.
He could be the first athlete in Holliston’s history to play and earn four varsity letters in one year but that can’t be confirmed. “Records don’t go back far enough but he’s at least the first in quite some time,’’ said Holliston Athletic Director Matt Baker.
“When football was moved, I decided to pursue my hobby, which is a golf,’’ Balewicz noted. “My aim was to play four sports and be the first athlete in the school’s history to accomplish that. If I’m not, then I still can take pride in the achievement. Golf is a cool sport and it was fun to be active during the fall.’’
Once the 6-foot, 175-pound Balewicz gets one varsity baseball game under his belt, he will officially be a four-sport athlete.
But, he’s more. Much more.
Consider that he’s a two-time captain (hockey and baseball), an honor student (potential college destination could be WPI, Purdue, Tufts, Virginia Tech or Johns Hopkins) and knows what it takes to bounce back from a severe ACL tear. And, he’s acutely aware of the need to put the coronavirus in the country’s rear-view mirror.
“The health and safety of everyone comes first,’’ Balewicz emphasized. “If we can play sports and maintain a healthy co-existence with covid-19 until it’s conquered, then that’s a blessing. I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to play sports this year and that I can finish my career at Holliston with baseball this spring.’’
Last spring, Balewicz missed the entire baseball season. So did all his teammates, primarily because state officials canceled all spring sports when the virus emerged. Balewicz, however, would have missed a sizable chunk of baseball even if there was no pandemic.
He suffered a severely torn ACL injury in football, missing six games, then losing his entire junior year of hockey to rehab his right knee.
“I was in rehab for six months and had three months of intense physical therapy,’’ Balewicz said. “It was very disappointing to get hurt and when I recovered, covid-19 hit. The timing was terrible. Sports changed dramatically. There were no fans at games, lots of modifications to sports, and the atmosphere for athletics was drastically altered. During rehab, I vowed that I’d get better. Much work was done to strengthen my leg and to get my body back in shape.’’
The Holliston native started the school year with golf and finished the season ranked as the Panthers’ No. 4 golfer. “I averaged 42 for nine holes and I could drive the ball 300 yards,’’ he said. “It’ll be an activity I’ll continue with after college. It’s relaxing.’’
Being a captain in ice hockey was a plus because “it enabled me to be better prepared to lead in baseball.’’ He played center on the first line this year and he had 6 goals and 4 assists during a season that ended with a 2-6 record. A four-year varsity player, Balewicz played wing as a freshman and sophomore, then missed his junior year for rehab on the ACL injury. His overall style was a mix of being aggressive and using some finesse, which led to his becoming a Tri Valley League all-star.
Currently, Balewicz is playing football, competing at quarterback after playing on special teams as a sophomore and outside linebacker as a junior before tearing his ACL.
“We use a play-action system, so my first read is to pass but I also can run the ball,’’ Balewicz said. “When it comes to the four sports, football requires the most preparation, and hitting a baseball is the toughest thing because a .300 hitter fails on seven of 10 at-bats. My favorite sport is whatever is in season.’’
When coach Joe Santos’ baseball squad gets underway, Balewicz will be in left field. He’ll be easy to spot because of the attributes and the leadership he displays.
“Kevin is a great competitor,’’ Santos said. “He’s not our fastest player and he doesn’t have the strongest arm but he finds a way to make an impact. There’s not one moment that’s too big for him. He’s athletic, has a high baseball IQ and he’s instinctive. And, he always puts others before himself. We had an informal fall league last year and I was handing out uniform numbers. Our youngest player (Jake Schoenberg) took No. 14. That’s Kevin’s number but he gave up the shirt to Jake. He leads by example and by his actions.’’
Aggressive at the plate and in the outfield, Balewicz is fearless on the bases, always ready to take an extra base. Physical and mental toughness are other assets that he relies on. “Baseball requires mental toughness, especially when facing a talented pitcher,’’ he noted.
A .268 hitter in the 20 games he started as a sophomore, Balewicz’ goals this season are to win as many games as possible, qualify for any league or sectional tourney, and to win whatever playoff format is implemented.
“It would be great to wrap up my career at Holliston by experiencing some kind of a playoff,’’ he emphasized. “My individual goals are to hit .350 and to emerge as a top-quality captain. I want to be a quality leader and to be supportive and positive. That’s important because younger players are listening and watching. Being positive is contagious.’’
Balewicz firmly believes the Panthers have enough talented players who’ll contribute in a positive way. And, he’s a big fan of Santos. “We’re led by an awesome coach,’’ he said. Coach Santos is knowledgeable, is a motivator and he teaches valuable life lessons.’’
Balewicz has learned life lessons the hard way — via injury and covid-19. “Overcoming my injury was a lesson in overcoming adversity,’’ he offered. “And, covid-19 has taught me to take nothing for granted and live in the present. Last spring no one thought we’d lose a season but we did.’’
Two memorable games Balewicz recalls from his sophomore campaign are contests against Westwood and Dedham. “We lost to Westwood but I went 2-for-3, got a walk and had a solid game in the outfield,’’ he said. “Beating Dedham, which finished at 17-3, was a huge upset.’’
A quality student, Balewicz, who rates his parents (Greg and Kelley) as his role models, plans on majoring in civil engineering and hopes to design and construct sites for development. If his collegiate choice is a Division 3 school, he hopes to continue playing baseball.
Fully aware this his high school career is heading for the finish line, he’s excited to begin a new chapter in his life but knows the conclusion at Holliston will be bittersweet. “I remember as a freshman when seniors gave a speech about enjoying high school sports,’’ he recalled. “They said that the time would pass quickly and to enjoy competing. Well, it has gone by fast.’’
A four-sport athlete and two-time captain, Kevin Balewicz is indeed a rare breed competitor whose mature perspective on a variety of topics is refreshing. His coach puts an exclamation point on his achievements and his outlook with these words:
“Kevin would be happy if he went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts as long as our team was successful,’’ Santos said. “And, if I had a daughter, I’d encourage her to date Kevin.’’