New Jersey Baseball Feature Story
Leaving No Doubt
It has been said that perspiration is the mother of aspiration. If you accept the truth of that statement and package its meaning, you will surely turn out an athlete like Jonathan Rivera every time. Involved in sports “since the age of five,” as Jon explains, he learned early that he possessed a strong throwing arm. As anyone in sports knows, a strong throwing arm makes you a valuable player for any team at any age.
This holds particularly true at the youth baseball level, where young Jonathan first made his mark. “I started with baseball in the YMCA league and moved to football,” the 16 year-old Nottingham High junior recalls. As you might expect, Jon played quarterback for his Pop Warner football team, a position that he held for four years. You will never read it in the recorded history of Pop Warner football, but Jon and his teammates will always remember that, with him at quarterback, “the team won its very first game in seven years.”
The trend of excellence that Jonathan started in those leagues followed him as he grew. “I have been selected as an All-Star player almost every year since the age of nine,” he reports proudly.
As good as he has demonstrated himself to be, Jonathan falls into the abyss of talented, young players who cannot crack the starting lineups of their schools because of the increasing pedigree nature of some of those programs. “I tried out twice for my former high school team, but was cut both times.” Jon and his family hail from Hamilton Township outside Trenton, NJ. His never-say-die attitude left him undaunted, though, and in 2011 he started at shortstop and pitcher for Nottingham, with a promising scholastic career still before him.
He also planned to continue playing in the local recreation leagues, his second year for a team in the Lou Gehrig League. Disappointment does not deter this young man who aspires “to get an athletic scholarship to a Division 1 program and one day play professionally.” Lou Gehrig Coach Bob Sacco says it best when he describes Jon as “a graceful athlete who always hustles and plays hard, never misses a practice, and is a consummate team player.”
Sporting a .485 batting average from last season, when he also served as ace of Coach Bob’s pitching staff, Jon figures to play as long and advance as high as his incentive takes him. Players like Jonathan excel when adversity rears its ugly head; according to Coach Sacco, that describes his ace hurler perfectly. In a game when his defense turned routine outs into base runners for the opposition, “Jonathan showed his maturity and character by pitching out of trouble, and then encouraging his teammates to shake off the inning.”
NJB Magazine agrees with Coach Bob that leadership such as that does not get taught. Special players seem endowed with that trait, and Jonathan certainly stands as a shining example.
Perseverance and persistence will take Jonathan Rivera as far as he wants to go, in sports as well as in life. His quest to play at a Division 1 school represents as real a goal as any, as much because of his scholastic achievement as for his athletic ability. In school he carries a 3.33 Grade Point Average, a definite plus in any college recruiter’s scouting book.
As though to underscore this impressive young man’s determination, Jon leaves us with words to live by. He states, as plainly and as fluidly as making a dead-on, accurate throw from deep in the hole, that “My motto is to never give up, and stay focused on your goal and eventually you will achieve it.” Somehow, Jon, we have no doubt. None whatsoever.