Novak Takes Hack At More Goals
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Aug 8, 2014, 08:36
Justin Novak's opposite-field single in the final game of the season proved to drive in the game-winning run.
PETERSBURG — Arrive early or stay late at the Petersburg Sports Complex and one would hear a familiar crack of the bat coming from the first base line of the field. No, batting practice is not in session and it is not a part of a team-wide workout. Instead, the crack of the bat roaring through the stadium is being uncorked by the Justin Novak.
The youngest member of the Petersburg Generals and only rising freshman to participate in the Coastal Plain League this season continually hones his craft to become better than he was at the start of the day. It's why it's a common occurrence to witness Novak taking hundreds of swings off a tee, perfecting an inside-out hack, pulling the ball over the inner part of the plate and attacking it through the middle.
He does this whether he went 3-for-3 the night before or struggled during the day's current game. But he doesn't just focus on the hitting portion of his game. He also takes great pride in his work on the field while focusing on taking grounders at multiple infield positions, working on blocking balls in the dirt from behind the dish and perfecting routes to take on fly-balls in the outfield.
And one of the reasons Novak continues to push himself to his limits has more to do then just his determination to improve, but his upbringing. The Generals' utility player was not born in the United States, but as a son of a serviceman, grew up in Tokyo, Japan. It was there where Novak learned about the art of preparation and how it is a big barometer of the success a person will have on the diamond.
It's one of the customs he's continued to utilize while playing baseball for Petersburg this season and he believes it has attributed to success he's had in the CPL and during this past year's high school campaign when he hit a robust .476 at the plate with five homers.
"I always just try to get better everyday," Novak explained of his extensive pre-game work. "So whatever I can do to improve. Taking fungos is always important to take in game-speed. Hitting off a tee or hitting batting practice, you always have to envision different game situations you could be hitting in and that's how I always prepare myself."
Without the constant work on the field and in the cage, Novak might not have been able to cross out one of his life goals of playing college baseball. His love for the game only grew each time he was able to watch his brother Shawn play before ultimately playing baseball in Hawaii.
Watching his brother succeed only fueled his own passion for the game and he took advantage of traveling to the United States over the course of a few summers to attend baseball camps. It was at a baseball camp at the University of Virginia where the coaching staff first noticed the talent Novak had.
At the time, the staff didn't offer the 5-foot-9 Novak a spot on the team, but invited him back for the next camp they were holding. After seeing the improvement Novak made over the course of one year, they knew he could be a key piece to their success and offered him on the spot.
Although the offer made Novak extremely happy, it was also a weight off of his shoulders heading into his senior year of high school and gave him the added motivation to continue to hone his craft.
"At the time it took a loud off my shoulders because I had reached my goal of playing college ball, but at the same time, it's still feeling the pressure of going there," Novak explained. "Their the No. 1 team in the country and coming here and being announced that I'm from UVA, living up to that pressure is tough, but I put that out of my mind and just play the game."
It's what he's done since joining the Generals in the middle of June where he's experienced both successes and failures. In 36 games with Petersburg, Novak hit .217 with four doubles and has driven in 14 RBIs but has had his moments of brilliance.
During the Generals only walk-off win of the season, it was a Novak opposite-field single in the 9th inning which pushed the eventual winning run to third base. Then, in the final game of the season, Novak drove in the game-winning run with another opposite-field single to help the Generals defeat the No. 1 seeded Peninsula Pilots.
The chance to face college pitching before enrolling in school and experiencing challenges, but also succeed is one reason why Novak seems to have a bright future. In fact, Generals manager Daniel Wood is looking forward to seeing what Novak can do for UVA and how much he'll improve over the next few years.
After receiving an offer from University of Virginia, Justin Novak crossed off another goal on a list filled with them.
"He's a stud. He's a great kid and he works his tail off," Wood said of Novak. "It says a lot about his character and mental state to come out here and grind through it. He's going to be a special player and I'm excited to see where his career goes.
And for Novak there is only one place he would like to see his career go. After crossing off his goal of playing college baseball, the player with a chip on his shoulder because of not possessing the height of other ballplayers has set his sight on another.
"Every baseball player has one dream and that's to play in the Major Leagues," Novak said.
So Novak will continue to spend time in the cage before and after games while continuing to work on his fielding, aiming to improve every day in the hopes of crossing out one more goal he has set for himself.