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Zach Wise is a competitor. Watching him on the baseball field swing with power, run with a purpose, dive for fly balls, cheer for his teammates, it is easy to see the game is important to him. But what isn’t seen is the emphasis Wise also places on academics and excelling in the classroom.
Wise, a junior at Carroll County High School, was selected as one of the winners of the 2010 News-Democrat Student-Athlete of the Year award, sponsored by Earl Floyd Ford. Wise was nominated for his success on the baseball diamond, but he is also a varsity athlete on the football and basketball teams.
Wise began playing “America’s pastime” when he was five years old and has been playing every spring and summer since.
“I guess what I really love is my team, playing with the guys I play with, and I love the game,” he said. “A lot of people call it a boring sport to watch, but it’s really fun when you get out there and you get a ball hit to you and you are just running across and you make a play and everybody cheers for you. It’s just really exciting.”
Wise is the starting center fielder for the Panthers and is also the team’s closer. He was named both the 2010 31st District Player of the Year and the 2010 Class A 8th Region MVP. He was also named to the 2010 NCKC all-tournament team, the 2010 8th Region all-region team and the 2010 31st District all-tournament team.
“He is what you want in a baseball player,” Carroll County Head Coach Jay Jones said. “He is a first-class kid, a first-class athlete. He’s got all the tools.”
Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard. Wise said this was the best advice he had ever received from a coach, and he exemplifies this every day.
“I might not have the best talent with (whomever) I play against, but I guarantee I work just as hard or harder than anybody we play,” he said. “I try as hard as I can during practice, and on the weekends when we’ve got free time, I come to the conditioning center and hit for an hour or so.”
Jones also praised Wise’s dedication to improving, saying he is always the first to arrive and last to leave practice.
“He is the most driven student/athlete I have coached,” Jones said in his nomination of Wise. “He puts in all the work in practice and then puts in the extra individual work to be great.”
Wise also applies this work ethic to his studies. He is tied for the top of the junior class and has a 4.1 GPA.
“All my work comes first,” he said. “We get out of practice usually 5:30, 6 o’clock, and usually from 6 to 9:30, 10 o’clock I’m working on homework, reading books I have to read and just studying and making sure I keep my grades up.”
Outside of the classroom, Wise is a member of the National Honor Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Hopeful Lutheran Youth Group and was a Panther Kick-Off mentor for incoming freshman. His summer plans include playing on a summer baseball team, which he hopes will open up college opportunities, and attending the Governor’s Scholars Program. He was one of nine juniors from Carroll County selected for the prestigious five-week program.
When he is not studying or playing sports, Wise said he likes to listen to music and spend time with his 13-year-old brother Jacob.
“(We) just go driving around listening to music, going fishing sometimes,” he said. “(We) talk about a bunch of stuff and that helps me relax and settle down from stuff that I’ve been thinking about, school and baseball and stuff.”
Wise said he tries to lead by example both in the classroom and on the field.
“In the classroom, I think I do that by listening to the teacher and getting all the work done, and I guess it carries over to the field where I lead my team and help them through tough situations when we get in a jam or something. I guess it just all ties together,” he said.
While Wise said he would like to continue to play baseball in college, he also understands that an education is the key to success in life. He said he would like to be either a chemical engineer or study something in the medical field. A lifelong Carrollton resident, Wise said he would probably move back here if he could find a good job to support his family.
“Most of the people that play sports, you might be good in high school, but just because you’re good in high school doesn’t mean you’re gonna play baseball for a living the rest of your life,” Wise said. “Your education is what comes first and what is going to help you in life and without education, you’re not going to be anything. You’re gonna be talking about your glory days in high school like some people do.”