A WALK WITH A HAWK ... FEATURING: JEFF FLEETWOOD
Feb. 8, 2013
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. – For University of Maryland Eastern Shore junior first baseman Jeffrey Fleetwood, it is all about being confident. The Delmar, Del., native has distinguished himself through his confidence as both a player and person. Such a thought process has proven to be beneficial for Fleetwood as he has learned to beat adversity with a positive outlook.
“It’s about making your dreams come true,” said Fleetwood. “You have to be a great leader and have confidence in yourself. The work and effort that you put in is a part of that. You have to be prepared for any challenge that comes your way and tackle it.”
Coming off a solid freshman campaign in which he started 18 games and posted a .394 slugging percentage, Fleetwood was ready for a breakout sophomore season at UMES. He played the summer of 2011 with American Legion Post 64 and hit four homers to guide the club to a semifinals berth in the state playoffs. Everything was rolling for Fleetwood and the sky was the limit for his future.
And then he felt a pain in his knee.
At first, Fleetwood tried to play through it. Time progressed and he began to struggle with consistency. The pain grew with each passing day and it eventually pushed him to lay off it completely. A doctor's diagnosis was the only thing that could save him.
The pain in Fleetwood’s knee turned out to be from a cyst on his meniscus. According to Jonathon Cluett, M.D.., a meniscal cyst is commonly seen near the lateral meniscus (outside of the knee) and is associated with a specific type of meniscal tear called a horizontal cleavage tear. It was such a rare injury that Fleetwood was used in a case study afterwards.
“It was really difficult,” said Fleetwood. “I spent pretty much the entire fall season recovering to get back to full strength. I had to battle a lot of pain to find my skills again. I told myself to get better than the day before. I had to find a way to overcome any challenge and do everything 100%.”
In most cases, knee surgeries are no easy task to recover from. They include a good deal of rest, rehab and patience. A surgery involving the meniscus can sometimes take two months just to get off crutches.
But not for Jeff Fleetwood.
Not even close.
He worked and worked to get himself in good enough shape to return before the season started. His dilligence paid off as he landed a spot in the opening day lineup last year.
As a sophomore, he hit a career-high .275 with a team-high two home runs and 27 RBI. He played in 47 games for the Hawks a year ago and started 45. He opened the scoring for UMES in 2012 when he blasted a two-run bomb over the right-field wall against Gardner-Webb in his first plate appearance of the year.
“In that at-bat they fooled me with a changeup first pitch,” said Fleetwood. “It was a really bad swing. I didn’t lose confidence though. They tried to beat me with a fastball the next pitch and I hit it off the scoreboard. It felt good. What a great way to start the year.”
His effort last season saw him become UMES’ most consistent offensive threat as he earned a team-best 13-game hit streak midway through the season. His resiliency and hitting approach was developed in his younger years, however.
He earned four varsity letters in baseball, three in football and one in basketball at Delmar High School. Fleetwood was a Henlopen South All-Conference honoree at first base in 2009 and 2010, all the while being named as the team’s MVP as a senior. The first sacker also played in the Carpenter Cup and hit .361 with five bombs and 28 RBIs his senior year. Despite his tremendous high school baseball accolades, it was one he had while playing football that stands above the rest.
“My greatest achievement as an athlete was winning a state championship in football in 2009,” said Fleetwood. “The long season, trying to get better each week and the tight bonds with my teammates are things I will never forget. It was an unbelievable journey.”
As for his future in baseball, Fleetwood has signed to play with the Winston-Salem Crushers in the Carolina-Virginia Collegiate League this summer coming up. He aspires to play professional baseball and sees himself having a big family and teaching in his home town. He knows that the present is important, though, and is ready to enjoy a successful season in 2013.
“I want to put up some big numbers this year,” said Fleetwood. “I feel like I can improve offensively and I am working hard on doing the little things. I like helping the younger guys and I think we are really good defensively. It’s a young team this year, but I think we are going to be tough.”
There is a fine line between being arrogant and being confident. While Fleetwood is confident in his craft, he is also a respectful individual who is well liked amongst his teammates. He exemplifies the importance of hard work and shows through his actions what being a leader is really about.
Baseball is about believing in yourself and Fleetwood is restoring that in Princess Anne.
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