High School Sports


Six words, derived from one letter, drives Steve Just to success. He never lets a bad day get in the way of what he, and more importantly, his team, wants to accomplish.It’s just after 7 a.m. on an unusually cool Monday morning in June. In the houses just beyond Liverpool High School, most teenagers find themselves in a deep sleep the morning after what had been a long summer night. As the morning work rush begins to surface, so too does the morning weightlifting session for the Liverpool Baseball squad. But while the bodies of most players are still half-asleep, the body of Steve Just, better known as Justy, is already in second gear, and he is ready to kick it up to third. For it is in this small and unfurnished weight room he continues to write another page in his already stellar, and yes surprising, high school career. It is here where a star stands in the corner all alone, sweat dripping down his face, waiting to become a legend. A true legend waiting to be born.

“Confident, calm, collected, cheerful, childlike, and cool. I think those are them,” said Just, fresh off completing what many consider to be one of the most inspiring seasons in Liverpool’s storied baseball history. “C”. One letter. That’s all Just insists it takes for him to live by.

Just will tell you repeatedly he never has a bad day, and that he will never let himself have a bad day. Does he ever get sick?

“It’s possible I guess, but it never happens. I don’t want to be normal, I’m not as extreme as say an outcast, but I just don’t want to be in line with the norm.”

He is never “too cool” to do something if it’s fun, as made obvious by the cut on his chin from sledding on a February day in Central New York.

“I’m praying I get a scar, what’s better then getting asked `What’s that scar from?’ and telling someone your tube popped while sledding and you smacked your chin on the ice?”

The students at Liverpool High School? They think Just is a great person.

“He is truly a very nice person and always very friendly when you see him in the halls. He absolutely loves baseball and you can tell that it’s his passion by the way he works at it and talks about it,” said Emily Squairs.

For years now, Just has religiously been playing football at the Tundra (his own backyard), backyard wiffleball, pick up hoops, hanging out with friends, and of course the sledding. The repetition, the constant bruises and cuts, and the idea of “just playing the game and having fun” all transformed and came to the surface during these instant classics at “The Tundra.”

It’s these same qualities, along with the “C’s,” that have sparked a lucky streak in Just’s life, but he’s not about to downplay the reality.

“I never expected to make it [the baseball team] as a sophomore, let alone start. So that keeps me remembering how lucky I actually got. Honestly, I just got lucky. The starter from the season prior [to Just’s sophomore season] had left and no one had stepped in to fill his shoes. Coach [Fred Terzini] gave me a chance, and he stuck with me. I can’t imagine how high school would have been if things had not worked out and I hadn’t spent my sophomore and [later] junior seasons starting.”

An intense player in between the white lines, Just is almost the complete opposite off the field. He loves to crack jokes with teammates and it always seems as if he is in the middle of some sort of team prank.

“I don’t let much get to me,” said Just, but he makes a point of saying that on the field he never has a problem getting the adrenaline pumping.

“On the field I’m doing whatever it takes to win. So if that involves getting fired up, that’s okay with me.”

Just is also a reliable catcher who calls a great game, and he always has opposing coaches and players looking for new ways to try and contain him.

“He is a very good hitter; he can hit for power and he is smart behind the plate. He is going to call a good game and he will keep his pitchers under control. You just have to hope he makes a bad call behind the plate or has an `o-fer’ at that plate, but we all know that doesn’t happen very often,” said Ryan Ross of Bishop Ludden High School.

After a breakout sophomore season, Just looked to improve not only on his individual game, but the overall performance of the team he was now selected to lead.

“In some ways I did better my sophomore year, but we won sectionals during my junior year, and that was our collective team goal from day one,” said Just. “Now, nothing less than a state title is acceptable. We need more. We need to stay focused and not let ourselves [the team] get lazy. We’ve got the parts, we’ve got the experience, so now we just have to not stop till we get what we want.”

That whole weightlifting thing, well it’s not just an excuse to get up at the crack of dawn on a summer morning.

“We started lifting at the start of last summer and we haven’t stopped since. We hit three times per week and we are all excited for the start of the season.”

Just doesn’t feel the need to try and win the hearts of his teammates to ensure that a state title does indeed happen.

“I don’t have to do much; I think they all want it enough. If they don’t want to win a state title, then they have the problem, not me, so we will see once the season starts. Once the season starts we will just have to make sure we stay focused on that one goal. I’ll try to hammer home the point that states is the goal if someone isn’t on that page, but I don’t think we have that problem.”

Just is the leader of the Liverpool baseball team, but he knows there are other people who lead in ways he can’t, and wont.

“I think I might try to lead by example more in terms of practice and working out and that stuff. I try to keep people focused on the job at hand and that stuff, but I think we’ve got other people that can lead vocally and some people that can lead with their game play. We don’t have one leader and at this point we don’t need one leader. I won’t step on anyone’s toes trying to lead, but if a time comes where we need it I will step up and I’m sure a few other people will too.”

It doesn’t take much to keep players focused, much less excited.

“I expect everyone to have fun but kick things up a notch during times we need something extra,” says Just. “That’s how we have to approach the season.”

“I expect a state title, that’s the only way I know how to look at it. And I expect to go undefeated no matter how hard that is. I’m excited about playing this season with a chip on our shoulder from how things ended last year.”

A chip on the shoulder is only a small indication of what the Warriors feel they can brush off, instead turning it into something they can bring to the table in 2008.

And in the wake of what could be a magical season, Steve Just makes sure his team is all of only one word.


Copyright ©2007 Colin Cerniglia. All Rights Reserved.

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