The COVID-19 pandemic prevented Jake Mackel and his Blue Jays teammates from soaring into the 2020 baseball season, but the Conemaugh Valley High School senior has higher aspirations ahead of him.
Mackel said he intends to become part of the United States Air Force following his high school graduation.
“After school, I’m joining the Air Force,” Mackel said. “I just wanted to further my education and travel the world, too.”
Mackel played organized baseball for 13 years, including the previous three seasons at Conemaugh Valley, where he was a first baseman and right fielder. He also played on the Blue Jays basketball team one year.
“The worst part about this whole COVID-19 thing is for these seniors. You play all those years and it’s taken away from you,” said Blue Jays baseball coach Dave Pisczek. “Jake stepped up big-time this year. He lost 25 pounds in the offseason. He was so hyped up for baseball. He was hitting the ball hard.
“He didn’t have a lot of opportunities as an underclassman but he stuck it out and worked hard and made the most of his opportunities this season. He was going to be our No. 4 hitter.”
Last season, Mackel batted .240 while scoring five runs and driving in five more on a 4-10 Blue Jays squad that lost five games by two or fewer runs. This season, he was looking forward to playing right field as a senior starter.
“Honestly, I was just heartbroken,” Mackel said of the PIAA’s cancellation of spring sports due to the coronavirus. “I wanted to play my last year of baseball. Everyone else gets to finish their careers. We don’t.”
Mackel is part of the web design team at Conemaugh Valley, which enables him to keep his classmates and teachers informed.
“We go on every day and update our website with the new information, the lunch menus and our CVTV,” Mackel said. “CVTV is our own news channel. We record ourselves and put the announcements on there.”
Mackel also participates in Remembering Adam Inc., a drug and alcohol awareness organization that promotes healthy decisions and behaviors regarding substance abuse. Remembering Adam teams with area school districts in the Pledge Together volunteer drug screening program.
He has taken the initial steps to prepare for the next step in his career.
“The Air Force has us reading stuff all the time. We do home workouts with our recruiter just to keep ourselves fit,” Mackel said.
Until it’s time to depart for the Air Force, Mackel and his classmates will continue to adapt to a new method of learning.
“I’ve been doing school every weekday and just staying inside,” he said. “It’s been pretty hard. I’m getting restless. Two of our teachers, we do Zoom calls with every other day. I email my teachers whenever I need help.”