Held will be remembered as the man behind the mask at New Franklin

Chris Bowie
New Franklin senior Zac Held applies the tag on a Pilot Grove player during a conference game last fall. Held held down the catching duties for three season for the Bulldogs before finally switching over to third base in the fall. Held also played basketball for one season his freshman year and track and field for one year as a junior.

New Franklin senior Zac Held describes himself as the man behind the mask as the starting catcher for the Bulldogs’ baseball team.

Although Held got that nickname from the announcer in the press box, he said it was kind of fitting since has been doing most of the catching for the Bulldogs for the better part of three years.

Of course that all changed this past fall as Held switched positions from catcher to third base.

“Coach Gerding wanted to get some of the younger guys some experience behind the plate so I switched to third,” Held said. “There were times where I loved one over the other, but I love them equally now. I always try to do my best at any position.”

That mentality has worked so far for Held. Although baseball is his first love, Held also played basketball for one season as a freshman and track and field his junior year.

He said baseball is his favorite 100 percent.

“I just like the feeling of playing baseball and being outside in the air in the summer nights,” Held said. “There is just something different that I like more about baseball than being inside a basketball gym or running on a track.”

Held’s honors also back up his statement. While all-conference and all-district as a junior, Held was also named to the Missouri Baseball Coaches Academic All-State Team four years running.

Held will attend State Technical College in Linn, where he will major as an industrial electrician.

While working with his dad on the farm and helping out with his business to pass the time since March, Held said it was disappointing not to get the season in this spring.

“It was just really disappointing because nobody really knew what was going to happen,” Held said. “Some of us always thought, or kind of hoped, that the season was going to maybe happen so it was disappointing not being able to go out our final time. I guess it was just that feeling that knowing that would be our last season instead of in the fall we didn’t know so some of us may not have tried as hard as we should have or wanted to.”

In the meantime, Held will have to go on his last three seasons for the Bulldogs. Although there were many highlights, he said his best game was probably in the second round of the district tournament his junior year. He said it was one of the toughest games the team had played all season and it was against the Madison Panthers.

“We were down by one and there were two outs with a runner on second,” Held said. “I believe Jimmy Layton was pitching and he was pitching a fantastic game and some of us just couldn’t hit off him. There were two outs left and I hit a line drive single to left. The runner ran to third and stopped and I was on second, and then there was an overthrow and we ended up scoring and tying the game. That was probably my favorite moment just because we were able to tie the game.”

Held said the Bulldogs wound up losing in extra innings in that game.

As for career highlight, he said it was probably his junior year and getting all-conference and all-district. That was also his favorite season, he said. “Honestly, I will miss everything about the game. I am going to miss not playing catch with my friends and hitting line drives and scoring runs.”

As for playing basketball for only one season, Held said it’s not that he didn’t like it but it took up a lot of his time and he really wasn’t the best at it.

“I thought I would take the time of the year to kind of focus on baseball,” Held said. “After that I saw myself progress more at baseball after I stopped playing basketball.”

In track, Held said he went out for that sport to try and build up his speed for baseball. He said he thought he was slowing down and his knees weren’t like they were as a freshman.

In addition to running the 200 and 400 meter dashes, Held also ran a leg on the 4 x 200 meter relay team. He said he liked the 4 x 200 the best because it was more of a team and that he was used to playing on a team and having others back him up and building him up.

As for his career as a whole at New Franklin, Held said he thought he had a good career but that there is always going to be something missing about it.

“There are games that I looked back on that I wish I could have done things differently because maybe the outcome would have been different,” Held said. “A couple of more line drives could have changed the outcome. I just kind of felt throughout the years I was playing, I just kind of build up and try to change different things and work on different things.

“This spring season I was kind of looking forward to because I could see the outcome of what has been building up for the past three years. I was hoping that this year would show the difference between my freshman year and now. Really just to see what would have happened.”

Another thing that Held will miss about playing the game he loves is the atmosphere. He said not only was there some great coaches at New Franklin, there were also a lot of great teachers. It felt like a home almost, he said.

With graduation set for June 20, Held said he’s just glad they are going to have it because it just felt like the spring as a whole didn’t feel right. “I’m hoping the graduation will end the high school chapter and start everything that comes next,” Held said. “However, I’m going to remember the teachers the most because they were very helpful. I could go to each and every one of them or ask them for advice and they would always give me a great answer. They were almost like a parent. They would treat you like you were their own kids.”

Although fishing was at the top of his list for doing things to do, Held also enjoyed hunting and hanging out with friends. “I also like to collect baseball cards,” Held said. “I have a Yadier Molina rookie card, so collecting Cardinals baseball cards is something that I like to do. That and seeing if my friends wanted to go to the ball fields and play catch.”

With a nickname like the man behind the mask, who wouldn’t want to play a game of catch with Held.