SYRACUSE -- It might be easy to miss one of the best baseball players in the area because of his stature.
However, the one thing you can't miss is how incredibly hard he works for his success.
Syracuse High's Jayden Bearnson isn't the tallest player for the Titans, but his presence rose to the top. He spends the majority of the summer playing baseball against elite competition in places like Arizona, North Carolina and New York. Bearnson has seen enough to know how to get better and play baseball the way it should be played -- hard on every pitch, every inning, all game long.
The motto, developed by his coach (and father) Jeff Bearnson, inspired to not only Jayden, but his teammates as well.
"We had to buy in -- it's the only way to play this game," the younger Bearnson said. "My dad pushed me to play, but I truly love playing the game. It started with T-ball and grew from there. Baseball was a huge part of my life and still is.
"From playing with friends and struggling the early part of playing baseball to turning on the lights in the backyard in the middle of the night to swing at some whiffle ball pitches from the all-time pitcher (dad), baseball is one of my passions."
He is also passionate about school, where he excels as a 4.0 student and has scholarship offers for academics from many schools.
"My mom (Elizabeth) and even my dad taught me that baseball will come and go, but you need to be a great student to get you somewhere in life," Bearnson said. "It's all about hard work and getting what you really want takes hard work."
That hard work paid off this season as the Titans (18-10 overall) advanced further than they did in 2011 with a great run through the state 5-A playoffs as the fifth-best team in the state. Bearnson's composure and statistics were more than enough for him to be named the 2012 Standard-Examiner All-Area MVP.
"It was a humbling experience when he first heard about the honor," Jeff said. "But he took it all in stride like 'Oh that's great' and moved on from there. He really is a great kid that works as hard as anyone that I know to be a great player, student and son."
"I learned a bunch from my dad, but it was my coaches down at the (Rocky Mountain) Academy that really taught me to go out and play. Have fun. Just say 'screw it' to things that happen during the game that might get you down. Those coaches down there really opened me up to be who I am today," Jayden said.
Bearnson was one of the most consistent players for Syracuse. He had big hits in big games and made some huge defensive plays that kept the Titans within striking distance.
One of the best plays came with his glove during the state tournament against Bingham. He raced backwards into right field and made an over-the-shoulder catch without turning around for a big out in the inning to keep the Titans in the lead.
"He made it look so easy and that's what he has been doing the entire time he's been playing baseball," Jeff Bearnson said. "We practice those types of situations so that when it happens, he doesn't think about it -- he just reacts to the situation and makes plays."
More than that, he was a balancing force for the rest of his teammates. Whenever someone made a mistake or missed a play, Jayden was the first to let them know that they needed to brush it off and make the next one.
"That actually worked both ways because I am such a perfectionist that guys like Jason (Jourdan) and Sawyer (Morain) were helping me to shake it off and get back to playing the game," Bearnson said. "Sure, sometimes it was to tell me I suck, but we are so close as a team that it kinda makes you laugh and then you get refocused. It was a look or something else that let you know that the rest of the team has your back. That's what made this year fun and exciting.
"The atmosphere changed this year. After our game against Bingham in the preseason (a 1-0 victory for Syracuse), we knew that we could play with every single team in the state this year."
"We played the way that we were taught and that is to play sound defense and manufacture runs," Bearnson said. "We had some offensive explosions this year too, but we also made plays and forced other teams to beat us. We never beat ourselves."
The good news for the Titans is that the majority of the lineup was underclassmen, including their top three pitchers. That is bad news for the rest of Region 1. Bearnson sees it as just another challenge.
"We, as a team, know that we need to continue to work even harder to maintain and surpass what we have done so far. The guys continue to put in work in the summer and we want to get better every day. That is our mindset and the only mindset that we need to have."