Waiting for a call is a thing in baseball. Pitchers wait for a call to the pen. Batters wait for their name to be called as they step to the plate. Minor leaguers wait for a call to the pros.
Junior baseball player Jon Greiner got a much different call during a game in the spring of 2015. One that had nothing to do with baseball, and one that would change his life monumentally more than any call to pinch hit.
“So, I was sitting at the fence [at the baseball field] and I got a phone call [from my girlfriend Julia], and I remember Brandon Blom was next to me and Julia said, ‘’I’m pregnant’, Greiner recalled. “I turned to Blom and said, ‘I’m going to be a dad.’”
This wasn’t a first for the Simpson Baseball team, as now sophomore Jared Herzog was taken back nearly a year earlier when he found out that he would be a father during the final months of his senior year at Lincoln High School in Des Moines.
Jon and Jared – From Midland to Simpson
Greiner, one year older than Herzog and an Indianola High School graduate, attended Midland University in Meade, Neb. for baseball, and was joined by Herzog at Midland a year later.
The similarities were already stacking up between the two, but a disillusioned effort to play baseball at Midland due to a roster that ballooned to 96 guys pushed the two to transfer.
At the time, neither Herzog or Greiner knew about each other’s plans to transfer to Simpson until they bumped into each other during the introductory NCAA compliance meeting.
Greiner met his girlfriend, Julia McRoberts during the first semester of his freshman year at Midland before transferring to Simpson after the fall in his sophomore year. McRoberts, a Meade, Neb. native, joined Greiner upon his transfer to Simpson, moving from a rough family situation.
Herzog and his girlfriend Linsey Johnson met in high school, and Johnson got pregnant during Herzog’s senior year in Lincoln.
They would be fraternized by the news of Jon’s expected child, Blare, just months later, as Herzog was to have the birth of his son Jameson in only a few months.
The two become fathers
“My girlfriend had stomach ulcers, so we thought something was wrong, but didn’t think it was pregnancy,” Greiner said. “We had seven pregnancy tests, went to the doctor and had blood work done and went for an ultrasound and they were like, ‘she is pregnant.’ Julia was already three months pregnant. It was crazy.”
Herzog found out differently.
“I was still in high school and I remember it perfectly,” Herzog said. “I just got back from a road trip to Ottumwa and she just started crying. She hadn’t even told me and then she finally did and I was like, ‘what?!’ We didn’t know what to do for a while.”
Herzog and Johnson were separated shortly after learning of their pregnancy, as Herzog left for Midland while Johnson attended Iowa State University seven months pregnant.
Jameson was born on Feb. 19, 2015, shortly after Herzog moved home to Simpson. From the sounds of the delivery, it was a good thing Herzog was present.
“When we got to the hospital there were no rooms available,” Herzog said. “We went to a women’s office, dragged her desk out and had to bring a bed in there. Finally, two hours later, a room opened up. Linsey’s emotions were flying and she wanted to leave. It was really bad.”
The birth lasted around nine hours, opposed to McRoberts’ relatively quick labor.
“It’s an eye-opener, it’s not like what you see on TV,” Herzog said. “When the baby came out, you’re just… I had no words. I started getting lightheaded and was about to pass out.”
Life – Balancing parenthood and college life
Greiner and McRoberts live at home with Greiner’s parents, while Herzog and Johnson rent an apartment near Fareway in Indianola.
Johnson, who’s parents live in West Des Moines and Herzog’s who live in South Des Moines, are able to help carry the load in caring for Jameson.
Greiner, an elementary education major, and Herzog an environmental science major, have quickly learned where their priorities are, and sometimes they’ve had to clash with professors.
“There are some [professors] that understand, while others are like, ‘okay, well you still need to do your school work,’ Herzog said.
Sometimes it’s as black and white as, choose school or taking care of your kid, while making baseball practices.
“You either pick school or you pick your kid, and family is going to come first every time,” Greiner said. “Julia is working, I’m at home and trying to play baseball. I just don’t have time [for classes] between practices and taking care of my kid.”
With daycare prices rising to around $200 a week, state assistance has helped make schooling, and subsequently baseball, possible.
“Another big help is state assistance,” Herzog said. “Linsey doesn’t go to school right now, but when she starts…one of us would have to drop out [without state assistance].”
During the preseason portion of the baseball season when practices often take place at night, Greiner and Herzog often come home to their kids already asleep.
Early on in fatherhood, time away has been one of the hardest things.
Head coach Ben Blake, who recently had his third child, has helped Greiner and Herzog carry the load of a student-athlete-parent.
The late Joe Blake Sr., who was the team’s pitching coach, welcomed Jameson off the bat.
“I said to Joe, it was the first game Jameson had come to, and I was like, ‘you want to see this little guy,’” Herzog said. “He was sleeping and in his car seat and Joe looks up and was like, ‘when are you going to rename him Joe?’”
Sharing the experience with a teammate has provided a unique bond for the two, who essentially stand alone amongst the college-student demographic that is stereotyped to sometimes struggle to take care of itself. It’s definitely put the growing up phase on a fast track for Herzog and Greiner.
“It’s a lot more responsibility,” Herzog said. “But even before the baby was born we were doing the little things and making sure there were no small things on the ground. Baby-proofing.”
“Your friends don’t really know what you’re going through and don’t get it,” Greiner said. “There are so many things that I could tell you about being a dad and why it’s stressful.”
GPAs, internships and working on a college budget mean a lot more as a father. Greiner and Herzog like to remind their peers that if not now, one day they’ll understand.
By Brock Borgeson