Warsaw Trio Reunites
This was the last thing Jordan Kistler, Jeff Himes and Jake Bloom expected. To be playing together…again.
Between school and travel ball, the Warsaw Community High School triumvirate has been playing together for a decade. But after high school, their time together appeared to be over.
“Just from an athletic standpoint, I never pictured myself coming here. Especially growing up here, they had contacted me, and I pretty much told them ‘no.’”
2008 Warsaw graduate Jeff Himes’s route was, yes, unexpected, but much more traditional than Bloom’s and Kistler’s.
During his senior year at Warsaw, Himes had his eyes set on Sinclair Community College and had practically told Grace to buzz off. When he visited Grace’s campus, however, he reconsidered. “All the people I met were unreal nice and unreal friendly,” Himes said.
After the coaching staff persistently contacted him, Himes gave into Grace, which established a pipeline to Kistler and potentially Bloom. It’s Himes, in fact, that may be the underestimated lynchpin behind Kistler’s arrival.
“There were always times last year when Jordan would call me to catch up,” Himes said. “He would ask questions like, ‘What’s chapel like?’ But I never caught on.”
While Kistler was at Iowa Western, Himes was Grace’s only marketer.
“There is nothing else to explain it except for…God works in crazy ways,” Himes said. “That’s why it’s so great. I never saw this coming. It’s cool…There are no words to say.”
“Never thought I’d be here, honestly. I grew up in Warsaw, and I was born here. I want to play, but at the same time, I don’t want to be here my whole life.”
Entering his freshman year at University of Indianapolis, 2009 Warsaw grad Jacob Bloom had every intention of trying to walk onto the team. After attending all the baseball meetings, however, Bloom coughed over the team shirts and shorts he had paid for, got his $20 back and quit the team because of a number of “outside factors.”
Every day Bloom worked out, however, he walked through campus, saw the U-Indy baseball field and realized something: He missed it. “It just ate at me, and it got to me a little bit,” Bloom said. “I just realized how much I missed it.”
Bloom began exploring other schools and learned that he could practically attend Grace for free. Bloom transferred to Grace for his freshman spring semester, joined Himes on the roster as a redshirt and is back on the field again this season.
“To go for free and play baseball again…It feels good,” Bloom said. “Taking a year off is not easy, but it just feels good to play again and be out there…I just kind of showed up.”
“They were like, ‘Hey, if anything ever goes south, get ahold of me.’ Apparently I remembered that when it went south.”
Jordan Kistler’s plan was panning out perfectly.
In his sophomore season, 2008 Warsaw graduate Kistler had just led his team, Iowa Western Community College, to the 2010 Junior College World Series title. With a 10-0 record on the mound, his reputation was at its peak. And after two years of recovery from elbow surgery, he was throwing his best since high school. He was on the brink of attaining his dream: Playing Division I baseball.
His success hadn’t gone unnoticed, either, and a number of bigger schools were flocking after him. At the end of May 2010, Kistler fulfilled his dream and signed with Division I University of St. Louis.
Three months later, however, something went incredibly wrong.
“I thought I was getting $34,000 out of $44,000 for my scholarship,” Kistler said. “I was under the assumption that I would get 85 percent, but I got $20,000 and didn’t get anything for academics.”
The timing of the debacle, one week before school, left him in a conundrum. Remember, this was in August. While most college students were packing up their cars for school, one of the top JUCO pitchers in the nation didn’t even have a team.
That’s when Kistler remembered his encounter with Grace’s coaching staff at the BPA (Baseball Players Association) convention at Grace’s Orthopaedic Capital Center earlier that summer. They had told him that if things ever went south, he could contact them.
So he did. Luckily, head baseball coach Josh Bailey just so happened to have scholarship money available. And it also helped that Kistler’s high school sweetheart, Rachael Slater, just so happened to still be in the area.
Kistler realized that in Warsaw, he had a chance to be around the people he loved and be part of a team that valued him as more than a baseball player.
“Even at a DI school, you are just a scholarship on the mound pitching,” Kistler said. “Here, you are a person.”
What makes the Warsaw trio’s reunion even more capturing is the depth of their relationships. Himes and Bloom have been dominating the outfield together for years, Bloom went to Kistler’s father for hitting lessons, and Kistler and Himes are, well, best friends. “Jeff and I have pretty much known each other since we’ve been in diapers,” Kistler said.
They shared their graduation open houses together. They vented to one another over the phone about the stresses of collegiate baseball. Himes even remembers having “Beanie Baby wars” upstairs at Kistler’s house where they would whirl the plastic pellet-filled critters at one another (whether that was their six-year-old days or last summer, he wouldn’t say).
“He’s my best friend,” Himes said. “He’s my go-to guy for a lot of stuff.”
It wasn’t just three former teammates that reunited this season. It was three friends that reunited…somehow.
“For me, it really hit home that everything happens for a reason,” Kistler said. “When you think you know life, you obviously don’t. You just have to have faith, and it will all work out.”
By Steve Copeland
This story was published in the April 17 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.