By T. Scott Boatright
Ruston’s Justin Szymanski comes from a baseball family.
But that doesn’t mean Szymanski’s path from youth baseball to signing a scholarship on Monday to continue his hardball career on the collegiate level has been an easy one.
Determination and perseverance played as big a role in his success as Szymanski’s God-given abilities in helping him earn the scholarship to play for the South Ark Community College Stars.
“I’m excited about him for a number of reasons, including the trials he’s faced and the perseverance he showed throughout his career at Ruston High,” Smith said. ”And a freshman, I remember, he might have been near the bottom of the list. And then his sophomore year, he played JV only.
“But you know what? Justin never quit. He kept fighting, dragging, he kept working. His junior year he had a little opportunity, but gets injured, and goes in and out of the lineup. He never complained and was a great teammate. But he kept working and got the opportunity to start for us this year and has a fantastic year, obviously leading to him signing with South Ark Community College.”
Szymanski will be joined at South Ark by his brother Dawson Szymanski, who has joined the stars after playing his freshman season at Baton Rouge Community College.
“And now Justin gets to play with his brother, who means so much to him,” Smith said. “Talking to Justin this season I learned how much Justin loved playing with his brother last year, so I’m looking forward to watching both guys. … But I love how Justin never quit. No matter the situation, or whether or not it worked out his way, he kept working and now is seeing the success of those efforts.”
Justin, who batted .344 last season with 28 runs batted in and two home runs, said South Ark has told him they plan to work him at first base as well as catching some.
“They made me feel as soon as I got there I was already part of the family,” Justin Szymanski said of his recruitment process at South Ark. “The way they talked to me and treated me made me feel like that’s my spot. The coaches are awesome and the camaraderie among the players is really good. I just felt really comfortable there.”
He said playing only an hour north of home on the same team as his brother is a dream come true.
“It’s perfect,” Justin Szymanski said. “My brother being in Baton Rouge last year, that was four hours away and I never got to go down and see him. Now our parents can come watch us play. I can come back on weekends because it’s so close. It’s the perfect spot for me.”
His brother won’t be the only familiar face Justin will be playing with at South Ark – Choudrant catcher Gavin Murphy and pitcher/shortstop Bryce McGuire also recently signed scholarships to play for the stars.
“I played with them in 12-U and 13-U and was pretty good friends with them as well,” Justin Szymanski said. “So I’m really glad they’re coming as well. This is going to be really good.”
Dawson Szymanski batted .143 in only eight games played at East Baton Rouge CC this past season and said he was thrilled to be teaming with his brother on their journey to South Ark.
“He’s worked hard this season without me with him, and I think that was a little bit of a challenge,” Dawson Szymanski said. “But he had his baseball team brothers who were there for him, and now he and I are going to be together again.
“I missed him a lot in Baton Rouge. It was different, and a learning experience. Now I’m going to take what I learned there and hopefully we can help South Ark go to another World Series.”
The Szymanski’s parents both teach in the kinesiology department at Louisiana Tech and father David has also often worked with the Bulldogs baseball team on health and conditioning.
“It’s going to be great to have them close enough to home so that we can go see them play,” David Szymanski said. “They are so close-knit as brothers they actually feed off of each other. They support each other and push each other. And hopefully they’ll grow as players and help South Ark get to another Division II World Series like it’s done this year.
“And of course I’d love to see them come to Louisiana Tech. If it happens, wonderful. If they go somewhere else or do something else, that’s fine, too. But I’ll admit, I’ve worked with Louisiana Tech for so long that I’m ingrained in the program. What a wonderful opportunity that would be. But for now, the focus is all on South Ark.”
His son’s have the same longer-term dream.
“That’s the goal – to get good and eventually be able to come to Tech hopefully,” Justin Szymanski said.