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updated: 12/18/2012 7:11 PM

Ballestero's thrusts: hockey and LDRS

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  • Senior winger Manny Ballestero, "The Warren Rocket," has helped fuel the Blue Devils this hockey season.

    Senior winger Manny Ballestero, "The Warren Rocket," has helped fuel the Blue Devils this hockey season.
    Photo by Dave Johnson

By Ross Forman
Daily Herald Correspondent

Manny Ballestero, a senior at Warren, wants to be an aerospace engineer and is leaning toward attending classes next year at Iowa State University.

He's already well on his way to a sky-high career.

Forget hockey legend Maurice "Rocket" Richard of the Montreal Canadians, or his younger brother, Henri, nicknamed "The Pocket-Rocket," also a hockey hall of f amer.

Ballestero is "The Warren Rocket."

As in, model rocket. But we're talking big time model rockets.

"Generally, when people think of (model rockets), they think of the small, 6-inch tall paper things that you buy at the hardware store," Ballestero said. "But I built pretty large model rockets, like 20-feet tall, weighing about 70 pounds, and they can fly 5 or 6 miles.

"There's a lot of scientific research that goes into building these rockets because, as you can imagine, it's a pretty large process building a large model rocket that can fly three-times the speed of sound."

That's about 2,000 mph.

Model rockets is such a large part of Ballestero's life away from the Gurnee campus that, this past summer, he was in New York for the Tripoli Rocketry Association's 31st annual national launch LDRS, short for Large and Dangerous Rocket Ships.

"My (hockey) teammates think it's pretty cool, though I don't think they really understand how big these (model rockets) are, or even exactly what they are," Ballestero said.

Ballestero has built about 30 rockets over the past four years. Some take up to four months to complete; some are done in a few weeks.

He's launched his rockets in Princeton, Ill., Lafayette, Ind., and elsewhere.

"I have a lot of fun" with the rockets, said Ballestero, whose interest in model rockets was launched in middle school, when he built a small model rocket for a science fair. He learned about larger model rockets on TV and then further on the Internet.

Ballestero, 18, who lives in Gurnee, said his large rockets come apart in sections, thus he is able to transport them to their launch in 5-foot long sections inside his Jeep Grand Cherokee.

"What I find most fascinating about Manny is that he displays that same level of passion for a variety of other hobbies and activities, such as band and large-scale model rocket design and building," as he does for hockey, said Warren coach Adam Antell.

Ballestero is in his first season on the school's varsity hockey team, a baritone player in the school's band and an outdoorsman who enjoys snow skiing and fishing. He shoots left-handed and plays left wing, alongside center Brett Latal and right wing John Oberlander.

"Manny is one of the most fearless and determined young men I have worked with," Antell said. "He is a player who earns everything he gets in the world of hockey. His hard work and relentless determination to compete day in and day out at practice has earned him the respect of his teammates. His uncompromised support for his teammates, regardless of how many shifts he gets during hard fought games, has earned him the respect of his coaches. Manny is a team player who simply loves the game of hockey and his passion for it is obvious everyday."

Warren has struggled this season in the North Central Division, standing at 7-12-3, but has won its last three league games and is undefeated in its last nine.

League play resumes Jan. 4, when the Blue Devils face the Latin School of Chicago in Lincolnwood.

"It was a rough start to the season, but things have been pretty good for us of late," Ballestero said. "I think the key for our turn around is just that we're focusing a lot more, especially on the little things. Early on (this season), we just had a lot of newcomers (to varsity). We weren't really working as a team, but lately have pulled together and bonded."

Ballestero saw action in 20 of the team's first 22 league games, and he has only 1 assist, plus another in a nonconference clash. He's still seeking his first varsity goal.

"I really try to make plays happen," Ballestero said. "Wherever the puck is, I go straight to the puck and try to take it away from whoever has it."

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