Sports

Ubbenga signs to play with Gateway Grizzlies

Jonathan Ubbenga, a 2005 graduate of Enumclaw High and recent graduate of William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., inked a professional contract to play for the Gateway Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies’ home is in Sauget, Ill., where the Gateway Arch in St. Louis is close enough to be clearly visible from the team’s stadium.

“Several people thought I might get picked up in the recent Major League Baseball draft, but that might come later,” Ubbenga said. “Right now I am just having fun doing what I love to to do, in front of 2,500 people every night.”

Ubbenga left William Jewell on a great note, as he was an honors student who could swing a pretty decent bat. But he will be remembered most for his wizardry with a baseball glove. In his senior campaign, the shortstop had 218 fielding chances and made only a half-dozen errors.

The Rawlings organization, renowned for its sports equipment, recognized Ubbenga’s leather work in the field by including him as a part of the nine-man National NAIA Gold Glove team.

Dan Hennessy, who coached the Enumclaw High baseball crew from 1992 to 2005, summed up Ubbenga’s exemplary character with two words – dependable and focused.

“He flat out didn’t make mistakes in the field,” Hennessy said. “In fact, if he ever made an error for the Hornets, I don’t remember it. He was a really gifted guy and a great team leader, who led by example.”

Hennessy recalls the 2005 season when Ubbenga had a serious collision with an opponent’s second baseman on a steal attempt, breaking bones in his face.The injury kept him on the shelf for almost the rest of year.

The Hornets’ season went south in a hurry and failed to reach the playoffs, Hennessy said, despite a handful of other talented players in the lineup.

“I think it was that fact alone that most exemplified how important it was for him to be out there playing,” Hennessy said. “His love for the game was so contagious. I remember he was always the first one out on the practice field and the last one to leave. He was such an inspirational kid.”

In Ubbenga’s initial at-bat for the Grizzlies he very nearly blasted a home run, but it ricocheted off the top of the centerfield wall for a double.

“The very next night, after the game, (the manager) called me into his office and closed the door behind him. I was thinking, ‘are they going to trade me or cut me already?’ But it turns out that all he wanted to do was get a spelling and pronunciation of my last name, because the broadcasters and newspaper guys kept screwing it up. Boy was I relieved.”

To comment on this story view it online at www.courierherald.com. Reach John Leggett at jleggett@courierherald.com or 360-802-8207.

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