Jimmy Ward has been playing baseball as long as he can remember.
"Probably before I could even walk," said the Hoffman Estates senior pitcher. "The first time I played catch with my father I just sat on the ground and rolled the ball back and forth with him.
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"Baseball has always been my true love and I have had aspirations of becoming a Major League baseball player since before I can even remember."
Ward had a season to remember as an Mid-Suburban League all-conference junior, compiling a record of 7-3 with an ERA of 2.28 and 60 strikeouts in 64 innings.
His numbers hardly went unnoticed.
Ward signed a letter of intent on Wednesday to play Division I baseball for the University of Evansville in Indiana.
"Jimmy approaches each practice and game with 100 percent focus and passion for the game," said Hoffman Estates baseball coach Todd Meador. "He has been blessed with great baseball talent and he fortunately has a work ethic and intelligence to maximize his gifts. He has a very, very bright future ahead of him."
A future that Ward would love to continue past college.
"To further my opportunity to reach my ultimate goal the first step for me was becoming a Division I ball player," Ward said. "The first time I spoke with the coaching staff at Evansville, I loved the way they presented themselves and I was very impressed with the way they handle the program."
While speaking with Purple Aces coach Wes Carroll, Ward said he learned how the players competed.
"They play with a chip on their shoulder," he said. "They go out and work hard every day to get the job done and get it done the right way. The moment I heard how the team carries itself, I knew that I would fit in perfectly."
The Missouri Valley Conference is a quality baseball conference.
"When the opportunity to be a part of that came about I knew it was the best possible thing for me and I was overjoyed with getting to play against such good talent," Ward said. "When it comes to the school itself, Evansville has top-of-the-line academics that I knew would be a great benefit for me in the long run when it came to finding a job in the real world."
Ward's family has always emphasized "Live by the B's in life" which are books and baseball, in that order.
Ward hopes to study kinesiology or a related field.
"If my ultimate dream in life is cut short and I can not make it to 'The Show,' I want to help young athletes become the best they can be so that their same goal may be achieved one day," he said.
Ward has had great help himself along the way.
"I can not thank my parents, coaches (both at Hoffman Estates and with the Illinois Sparks) and my uncle enough for pushing me every step of the way and providing me with great opportunities to excel in and become the baseball player I am today," he said. "My parents (Jim and Kim) and brother (Ryan) have sacrificed countless summer days to go on numerous road trips with me as I have had the opportunity to play in six different states this summer.
"My coaches are all incredibly intelligent when it comes to the sport of baseball and have helped mold me into an elite athlete and have opened up many doors for me to become a college baseball player."
Ward wears his No. 19 for his uncle Anthony, who also loved baseball but had to give up the game with a back injury while at Schaumburg High School.
Anthony's favorite number growing up was No. 19. His close friend John Komacki who played on the Schaumburg 1997 Class AA state championship baseball team took that number to honor Anthony.
"My uncle has been there for me through thick and thin and has supported me every step of the way and has put me in the best positions to succeed as well," Jimmy said.
Ward is also beginning his fourth year of basketball at Hoffman and has been a member of Peer Mediation, Hoffman Hooks, Peer Tutoring and Student Council.
He was on the Homecoming Court this year, is a proud leader of the Hoffman student fan section (The Blue Crew) and competed in the school's 'Mr. Hoffman Hawk' competition.
"Being involved with the school gives you a greater appreciation for everything and helps you learn how to become a hard worker and balance your time," Ward said. "I have great school spirit and being involved is enjoyable to me because I get to make positive contributions to all of my fellow students."
Meador has enjoyed the opportunity to coach Ward.
"Hoffman is a better place with him here," Meador said. "I think very highly of Jimmy. He comes from a terrific family.
"Off the field he is also an impressive student and leader within the building. He truly exemplifies what it means to be a student-athlete."