To Andrew Estes, the home on a baseball diamond doesn’t resemble the plate with its namesake, but sits between second and third base.
Estes knows the shortstop position well. He’s drawn to Major Leaguers like Corey Seager, Javy Baez and Francisco Lindor, who frequently populate his computer screen and television on game days. To his amazement, their fluid motions and hard-working nature have captured a place in his heart.
“I just feel so comfortable there,” Estes, who was Lakeview Academy’s No. 1 pitcher and primary shortstop, said. “I can play other positions like second and third and still have fun, but there’s still something about playing shortstop that’s so comfortable and feels like home.”
The Furman University commit earned first team Single-A Private School offers after a successful year playing shortstop, pitching and hitting leadoff for Lakeview.
The Lakeview Coach Deuce Roark characterizes Estes as “very competitive” and a “tireless worker,” all qualities he drew from his entire family — ultimately leading to the Division I offer.
“I think he just excelled in every facet from being a defensive player to being an offensive player,” Roark said. “He was kind of a catalyst. He started the game (at leadoff) for us with passion and as soon as he got on base, he was going to make something happen. For a lack of a better description, he’s one of those guys that’s going to be the dirtiest when he leaves the field because he’s playing very, very hard.”
Roark believes “the desire to be better” is what attracted Division I schools like Furman to Estes. He’s never satisfied.
“They just love the way he plays because he’s going to play the same way if you’re up by 10 runs or down by 10 runs, if it’s the first inning or the last inning, he’s playing the same way,” Roark said. “He brings a kind of leadership to your team, a consistency in effort and attitude, along with really good baseball skills. Those baseball players are not just everywhere. He’s one of those rare players that you get to coach that has it all.”
The Lions finished the 2019 season undefeated in Region 8-A with a 19-6 overall record. Estes was indeed the team catalyst, hitting .471 over 104 plate appearances. Fellow junior, Sam Stewart, was the next leader in batting average, hitting .408 over 101 plate appearances.
The roster was stacked with just three members who possessed a sub-.300 batting average with at least 10 plate appearances.
“We had a really successful season last year, and it was due to (Estes) and some other players coming through in the clutch,” Roark said.
Estes identifies the team’s joyful nature as the root of their success. All the pressure is put aside for the game they all love.
“I don’t see any drop off (next year) in their play, especially in the type of play they bring to each game,” Roark said. “I would fully expect to have the same kind of effort next year because there’s a lot of seniors.”
One of those seniors will be Estes.
Leadoff is where Estes shines, and Roark discovered that truth halfway through his freshman season after starting him in the ninth hole.
“As a freshman, he didn’t want me to come in above all the other guys,” Estes said. “He wanted me to prove myself. ...And ever since then, I’ve been stuck there every single game.”
The “very high standard” that Roark set began the December of Estes’ eighth grade year. A Gainesville Middle student, Estes, joined by his parents, remembers walking to Roark’s Lakeview office.
What they found legitimized the desire to transfer. The rigor of Lakeview’s academics -- something his parents favored -- complemented Roark’s fiery passion for baseball. Estes listened to the coach’s every word and exchanged many smiles.
“My dad said to be all ears when listening to coach Roark because he’s got a lot of good things to say,” Estes said.
So much that Estes continues to reflect on one persistent saying.
“I don’t care if you can’t do it,” Estes relayed. “Give it 100 percent. And everyday give it one more percent. So if you give 100 percent today at practice, give 101 tomorrow and then 102 the next day … just give it your best and you will be successful.
“... I think I’ve taken that fire from him, and I’ve learned that you can’t just coast through baseball,” Estes said. “He’s taught me that you have to play the game with a lot of energy and with that fire.”