Jake O’Steen left his mark at Union County High School (Lake Butler) this past spring. Not only did he graduate with honors and a 3.5 grade point average, but he is also in the baseball team’s record books.
O’Steen, who will be playing baseball at St. Johns River State College in Palatka, finished as the Tigers’ all-time leader in stolen bases with 55 in his career, including a team-high 26 swipes his senior season.
“What the old school scouts would call a ‘baseball player,’ said new Union County baseball coach Jiwan James. “Nothing flashy, just plays the game extremely hard and does everything the right way.”
Osteen played basketball and baseball for the Tigers but there one was sport in particular that always stood out.
“Baseball for sure,” O’Steen said. “I’ve played baseball since I was 4.”
In fact, he’s been playing baseball alongside fellow senior Quinten Rawls since they were 5 years old.
Both of them have gotten an opportunity to play baseball at the next level as Rawls will be playing at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia.
“I love everything about the sport,” O’Steen said. “The training aspect is something I really enjoy. I love the competition between my teammates.”
As a junior, O’Steen led the Tigers to a 21-5 record and a spot in the Class 1A-Region 3 Final by batting .418 with 33 hits, 31 runs and 20 runs batted in. He also had 22 stolen bases. That earned him a spot on the inaugural Mainstreet Daily News/The Prep Zone All Area Baseball Team for small schools (1A-2A).
O’Steen, who played second base and shortstop, said there was “never a dull moment.”
“My coaches always make whatever we were doing fun, from the weights to the speed work to our practice reps,” he said. “They would even work out with us.”
O’Steen finished his career with a .314 batting average and a total of 61 hits, including five triples. The 2021 FACA All-State selection also had a career .919 fielding percentage.
His favorite high school sports moment was winning the district title and beating Columbia (Lake City).
The Tigers were district runners-up his junior season but they defeated Hilliard during his senior year to win the 1A-District 6 title. Union County edged Columbia, which advanced to the 5A final four this year, 7-6, in April.
There are a few things that he will remember the most about his high school sports career.
“Post-game victory meals with the guys, celebrating big wins, spring break wins at IMG and Vero Beach,” he said.
All in all, he had a great experience.
“A lot of fun for sure, grateful for the coaches, teammates and support staff that made my career awesome,” he said. “Thankful for all the friends and memories that will last forever. It went by way too fast.”
The hard work in the classroom and on the field has paid off and now he’ll get a chance to play baseball, his lifelong dream, at the next level.
“One of the hardest workers I’ve had the pleasure of coaching,” James said. “You can’t out work him. He’s living in the cages, he’s lifting constantly, he takes all the extra ground ball work and that’s why he’s gotten the opportunity to play this game at the next level. He’s earned it.”