Blaine High School senior Hunter Conn-Beck, 18, recently signed to play baseball with Ottawa University, a 600-student Baptist college in Kansas.
“Baseball has allowed me to challenge myself,” Conn-Beck said. “It teaches me lessons to persevere through tougher times.”
Conn-Beck began playing baseball at 6 years old, inspired by a family dedicated to the game – his dad, a die-hard Yankees fan; mom, a softball player; and older brother, a former first baseman for the Borderites. In his younger years, Conn-Beck played on a Nooksack Boys and Girls Club team before he moved to Blaine and began playing on Blaine Middle School’s team in seventh grade. He played as a middle infielder on BHS’ C team freshman year and JV team sophomore year.
But just as Conn-Beck was gaining momentum and eying college ball, the pandemic hit last March and stripped him of his junior year season. He didn’t play senior year.
“There was a lesson to be learned that there’s going to be a door opening soon and someone out there is going to give me another opportunity when I just had one taken away,” he said.
Conn-Beck invested his time in summer ball, which he played at City Baseball Academy, a youth baseball club in Seattle, and through one-on-one practices with a private coach four times per week.
Jake Phillips, Conn-Beck’s City Baseball Academy coach who worked with Conn-Beck last summer, said the budding collegiate athlete was always supportive of his teammates and gave his best effort.
“He always had a positive attitude and always worked his tail off to do better,” Phillips said.
The work paid off and this spring, Ottawa University, about an hour outside of Kansas City, reached out to Conn-Beck as a potential recruit. Conn-Beck visited the campus April 18-21, where he met the coaches and did a workout with the team, before being given seven days to commit. The school also offered Conn-Beck a $15,000 scholarship. “It felt like home,” he said.
Conn-Beck’s mom and coach Jeremy Hirschkorn, who owns Jett Movement Academy in Bellingham, where Conn-Beck signed, were at the signing on April 30.
“It was very overwhelming but very exciting for him because he’s worked really long and hard for everything,” La Donna Conn, Conn-Beck’s mother, said. “I am his biggest fan. I have worked long and hard to make sure he’s gotten to every practice and every game.”
Conn-Beck, set to play summer baseball with City Baseball Academy, said he’s most looking forward to the experience of college baseball and the challenge it will bring.
“It’s been my dream to play college baseball and then hopefully soon one day get to play Major League Baseball,” he said.