UNION COUNTY, NJ — More than 30 high school athletes from northern and central New Jersey realized their college dreams on Thursday, March 4, as they were recognized during Zoned Sports Academy’s annual Signing Day celebration. Buoyed by proud parents, these talented high school seniors walked, signed certificates commemorating their college admittance and posed for pictures. They will go on to represent their chosen colleges on the baseball or softball diamond.
For parents, it was the culmination of countless hours spent bringing their children back and forth to ball fields, supporting their athletic endeavors emotionally and financially, and cheering them on from chilly or sunbaked bleachers, in the hope that their communal sacrifices would pay off in the form of college scholarships. Some of these athletes aspire to play professional ball.
To date, Zoned Sports Academy student-athletes have earned more than $16 million in college scholarships. This year’s class came from Bridgewater-Raritan High School, Hillsborough High School, Seton Hall Prep, Freehold High School, Notre Dame Academy, Middlesex High School and many others, and will attend Penn State, Widener University, Rutgers University, Montclair State University, Rowan University, Post University and Harvard University, among others.
“It is our ultimate goal to see our kids play collegiately, and we take pride in seeing so many of our student-athletes enter the next chapter in their academic and athletic careers. Some of these kids have trained with us for over 10 years, and we are so proud to see them move on,” said Zoned Sports Academy owner Duke Baxter, himself a former professional baseball player.
Each year, new players walk through the doors at Zoned Sports Academy with the hopes of playing baseball or softball in college and making it to the big leagues. Staff embark on the journey alongside these young athletes in hopes of developing them both on and off the field, and helping them find the right academic fit.
During the Signing Day ceremony, each student walked the “turf carpet” and received a Certificate of Excellence to recognize the hard work and effort that brought them to that moment, to the applause of family. Students from Union County recognized this year were Autumn Barge of Union Catholic Regional High School in Scotch Plains, who is intending on attending Widener University; Briant Bazydlo of Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights, Morris County Community College; Ava Calabrese of Summit High School in Summit, Muhlenberg College; Kaya Mahy of Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield, Muhlenberg College; Matt Murowski of Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights, St. Petersburg Junior College; Maddie Murphy of Summit High School in Summit, Gettysburg College; Jack Pires of Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights, Rutgers University–Newark; and Michael Shaffer of Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights, Montclair State University.