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Fighting Eagles are changing lives and winning baseball games

Oct 05, 2017 10:28AM ● Published by City Journals Staff

Westridge Academy’s baseball team is having a successful season. It hopes to make an impact on the state playoffs this fall. (Jamie Keefer/Westridge)

Westridge Academy is a place for students, parents and even teachers to learn how to improve their lives. Eagles athletic director Jamie Keefer is using his experience to help his team’s players to succeed.

“I think if we can get to the first round of the playoffs, we could win our games,” he said. “When our kids first arrive (on campus) they have issues. Then they start to get it and turn things around. I see them learn and change their lives. For some of them, sports is part of that.”

Westridge Academy in West Jordan has provided schooling and clinical care for troubled youth ages 9–18. The program includes assessment, outpatient services and counseling. The sports teams are members of the Utah High School Activities Association and compete in Region 21 in Class 1A. West Ridge generally houses 20–30 students, and they compete in boys baseball and girls volleyball in the fall.

Keefer said sports can be an important part of their therapy. Westridge began competing in varsity sports in 1990. The sports programs supports the school’s overall mission by building self-esteem, team bonding and encourage learning new things.

Senior Will LaLonde, a resident from Minnesota, was named Deseret News player of the week when he pitched a perfect game and struck out 23 batters in three appearances this fall. He has lived on the Westridge campus for seven months.

“He (LaLonde) ran into a little bit of problems here and there back home and came to us and has done a good job,” Keefer said. “He could get us the wins when he pitches. He is a great pitcher, has a good change up and throws about 84 miles per hour. He is a great young man and has turned a leaf and has worked hard.” 

Jayden Hill is from Nevada and is hitting .667 for the Fighting Eagles. Will Adams, from California, is hitting .600 and has eight runs batted in.

In the last 10 years West Ridge has won seven Region baseball titles.

“We have had a great season,” Keefer said. “This group has bonded together. We have some great athletes. We have worked hard this summer, and I know our program is just getting better.” 

The Eagles head coach has also suffered hardships. Keefer had a kidney transplant in May. He had a hernia and major infection and spent almost a month in the hospital. He said his players understand the recovery he is going through because they share a common goal to change.

“It has been a tough recovery,” he said. “I think I tried to get back at it too soon. I connect with these kids very well. I have developed a great relationship with them. For a team that is small and really not in the limelight we are pulling it together. They are hard workers.” 

The Eagles had only lost two games headed into what Keefer described as tough road games at Dugway and Tabiona. They are scheduled to close out the regular season at home against Telos. The 1A state baseball tournament is scheduled to begin in October. 

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