Baseball: Highland Park’s Goldstein named Pioneer Press Lake Shore Player of the Year
Highland Park catcher Jason Goldstein: 2012 Pioneer Press All-Lake Shore Player of the Year. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 6, 2012 6:17AM
As an athlete, you don’t always know when that call is going to come. Jason Goldstein learned early to be ready when it does.
As a freshman, while walking to the car in the Wolters Field parking lot with his older brother Tyler, the cell phone rang. On the other end of the call was Highland Park’s first-year baseball coach, Ed Pieczynski, telling young Jason that he had a spot on varsity — if he wanted it.
“I heard him hitting in the batting cages at Wolters, and it was a special sound you don’t hear often,” said Pieczynski,
Joining a team stacked with future college players such as Anthony Kopp, Bryce Codell, Brian Evans, Jon Menke and AJ Nathan, Goldstein wasn’t sure right away if he belonged.
“My first game I was the DH and we were playing Libertyville,” said Goldstein, who has been named the 2012 Pioneer Press All-Lake Shore Player of the Year. “They were pitching two Division I guys. I struck out three times. It was a shock.”
A couple of games later, Goldstein made an adjustment, hitting his first home run and erasing any doubts of his readiness. Thanks to the mentorship of Tyler, who plays college ball at Johns Hopkins, he integrated himself into the culture of a team which won the CSL North. He ended that season with five home runs and a .352 batting average.
This spring, Goldstein put the finishing touches on a terrific four-year varsity career. Hitting No. 3 in the batting order, the University of Illinois recruit was what you call, “a very tough out.”
In helping the Giants (20-20) advance to the IHSA Class 4A super-sectional, he put up impressive numbers: .402 batting average, .522 on-base percentage, .682 slugging percentage and 1.204 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
Goldstein drove in 24 run with 43 hits, including 13 doubles and five home runs, while he drew 27 walks. He struck out a grand total of three times in 136 plate appearances.
The all-stater also was a standout defensively.
“I learned when there are good chances to throw and when to let pitchers work through innings,” said the 6-foot, 190-pound Goldstein. “Over the years, they (Pieczynski and assistant Dan Casey — ex-catchers) let me do things by myself. I’m smarter (because of it).”
During his junior season, opposing baserunners paid the price. He recorded 15 assists.
An impressive performance at the Stevenson Showcase in June of 2011 was followed by multiple college offers. But Goldstein would have other options, which did not involve attending class or frat parties. A sub-1.85 pop time (throw from home to second base) at the Area Code Games in August of 2011 put him on the radar of pro scouts, who began to swarm like lawyers to hospital emergency rooms.
In late fall of last year, Goldstein, who played his club ball with Top Tier, held private workouts for scouts at Slammers in Lake Forest. He caught Mundelein pitcher Ryan Borucki, drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in June. This led to a flurry of calls from interested teams.
“We got a chance to talk to several of the teams and they told us what they thought of him, pros and cons. They were very up front,” said Scott Goldstein, Jason’s father.
More conversations with teams in the months leading up to his senior season had Goldstein’s head spinning. He heard third round from one scout and 10th round from another, although the most likely spot was fifth. With the Illinois offer on the table, he would be forced to come up with a number, representing a dollar figure a team would have to offer for him turn pro.
Once he began to share this with teams — between $1 and $2 million — the calls slowed down. During the three-day draft in June, Goldstein’s name was never called.
“Everyone has their number. Mine was higher than other kids. We put a lot of thought into it,” said Goldstein, referring to talks with Scott and his mother, Terri. “We had home visits and they knew that I was an academic kid. “
What he’ll take to Champaign with him are the memories of one of the most illustrious baseball careers in school history.