Jon Steele led Pompton Lakes’ baseball team by example, and not just because he’s not naturally a very vocal person.
“I’m not a guy who’s going to yell at people and tell them what to do,” Steele said, “because if I do something I’m not supposed to do I’ll feel like a hypocrite. But I felt like a role model for the younger players on the team. Hopefully I helped them out.”
Steele, The Record Baseball Player of the Year, helped the Cardinals more than anyone could’ve envisioned when their catcher moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore.
Teammates and coaches have called Steele “the heart and soul” and “the backbone” of a team that won its second straight North 1, Group 1 title and its first Passaic County championship in 17 years. In addition to being a tremendous defensive catcher and leader, Steele was the offensive catalyst from the No. 2 spot in Pompton Lakes’ lineup.
He hit .516 (47-for-91), had a .614 on-base percentage and, at one point in the season, had an 18-game hitting streak for the 25-5 Cardinals. Steele also hit 11 doubles, nine triples and five homers, produced 46 RBI, scored 37 runs and was 10-for-10 on stolen base attempts.
“He’s a complete player,” coach Paul Tanis said. “He’s the type of player a coach will see once, maybe twice, in their careers. To say I’m going to have a very tough time replacing him is an understatement.
“And he did it not only as an offensive player, but as a defensive player. He called great games, great pitches, managed the pitchers, got the most out of them. Depending on how Jon Steele went, that’s how the team went.”
Steele will continue his baseball career as a recruited walk-on for Division I George Washington University. He plans to study business and perhaps pursue a law degree after graduation, but he’ll always treasure the history he and his teammates made at Pompton Lakes the past two seasons.
“I never thought for a second we’d win all the championships we’ve won,” Steele said. “Even after sophomore season on varsity, I thought, ‘All right, we’ll be pretty good next year.’ But I had no idea we’d get so far.
“Winning all those big games and putting our mark on Pompton history, that we were one of the best teams ever, I feel like that was a great accomplishment. It was real fun playing with my senior teammates. We’ve been best friends since middle school. To be able to finish off my senior year winning games with them, it just felt great.”