This is how much baseball means to Germantown NOW All-Suburban first baseman Blake Fleischman:
'It's always been first (among sports),' he said. 'I remember having ear surgeries when I was little and they told me I could bring my teddy bear if I wanted but instead I brought my glove.
'Since 2 or 3 years old, I've had my parents pitch to me and if they weren't available I had my 65-year old great-aunt do it (laughs).'
And that obsession has subsequently paid off. He helped lead the Warhawks to back-to-back North Shore Conference titles including a state runner-up berth in 2012 and earned first-team WBCA All-State honors this past season. Further, this coming school year, he will get a chance to earn a spot on the roster of the state's only NCAA Division I baseball program UW-Milwaukee, while pursuing a a pre-med major.
'Everything (in high school baseball) has turned out the way I hoped it would,' Fleischman said. 'From the time I was a little kid watching the varsity play, I couldn't wait to become one myself. It was a very gratifying experience.'
Always a hard worker
And in the mind of third-year Germantown coach Jeff Wolf, all the accolades couldn't happen to a more deserving individual.
'No one works harder than he does in the off-season,' Wolf said, 'and during the season, we almost had to tell him to take a break (he would put so much into it). He's really one of the greatest hitters I've had the privilege to work with. Whenever we needed a big hit he would deliver it time and again.'
He seemed destined to do it.
Fleischman was always one of the larger kids in his class and when he was little and Harvey Moy's Restaurant in Menomonee Falls had a buffet with a cost based on a person's age, the staff always looked at Fleischman's parents suspiciously when they were told how old he was.
'They thought we were trying to rip them off,' laughed Fleischman. Subsequently, Fleischman was a staple of the Germantown Little League program.
He did take part in other sports playing football until his junior year and basketball through his sophomore year. He made the varsity baseball team when he was a sophomore and never left. He learned from the likes of predecessors like Matt Eggert and Dylan Krivoshein of what it was like to be a varsity player.
'And then I just worked at steadily improving my physical skills while also working on mental tools, too,' he said. 'I've learned over the years, that when all things are equal, those (the mental aspects) are much more important.'
That became important as after that breakout sophomore season (he hit .453) he was told by Wolf and the staff that he would be seeing many more breaking balls and far fewer fastballs than he was used to.
'I had to learn to be patient and wait back on the ball,' he said. 'It was challenging because I had to change my mental approach and stay back on the ball....There were some games this past year where I would see 16 curveballs and just two fastballs.'
That dedication paid off again this past season, as he hit .430 with an impressive slugging percentage of .699. He also committed just three errors in 198 chances at first and was a critical aid on the mound turning in a 5-2 mark this summer.
Fleischman and the Warhawks had to be even more mentally tough as a team following the spectacular 2012 campaign as they looked to repeat their success but without the likes of state player of the year Brian Keller and fellow All-Suburban selection Danny Krause.
Leaders organized team workouts
Fleischman and fellow co-captains including 2012 All-Suburban pitcher Ryan Anderson, 2013 second-team WBCA all-state infielder Jordan Kuczynski and second baseman Joey Szopinski got the rest of the team organized into off-season workouts so they would be ready for what promised to be a wild 2013 North Shore Conference race.
And though this title wasn't as pretty as the one last year, the Warhawks still turned in a 13-5 mark, one game clear of the rest of the league (they were 16-11 overall).
'That was very gratifying,' he said, 'and just like last year, it came down to the final stretch. We had lost a lot of people from last season, but we had a lot of people back who wanted to make it our season and not leave anything behind.
'...Coach said that it's sometimes harder to win a conference championship than a state title, because anybody can get hot for five or six games in a row, but to play well over the course of an 18-game (league schedule) takes a bit more.'
Fleischman is now reaping the benefits. The UW-Milwaukee coaching staff came to look at him the winter of his junior year as part of their great interest in Keller (who eventually picked up a scholarship from the Panthers).
'They pulled the trigger on me in May,' Fleischman said. 'I'm not going to get any (scholarship) money but I have a chance to earn it.' He will not only be joining his old teammate Keller but also another former Germantown all-star in pitcher Tyler Thicke.
'That's just a thrill to be able to play with some of the best players in Germantown history,' he said.
Fleischman will also challenge himself with his major. He's always been interested in science and challenged himself in his last year of high school with three very advanced courses including anatomy, physiology and physics.
In the interim, he's staying sharp on the diamond, playing ball with the Lannon Stonemen of the Land O' Lakes league, readying himself to make the next jump.
'I can't wait,' he said.