During his freshman year at Seymour High School, R.J. Kleber attended all of the college signing sessions for his teammates.
Seeing his fellow Owls ink commitments to the next level inspired Kleber to work harder on the baseball diamond and helped him set goals for the next three seasons.
All of that time and effort on and off the diamond with his teammates has paid off for the SHS senior.
Last week, Kleber joined a long list of SHS baseball players to play in the college ranks by committing to Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
MVNU, located in Mount Vernon, Ohio, is an NAIA school that competes in the 10-team Crossroads League.
Owls coach Jeremy Richey said Kleber has shown steady improvement over the years.
“I remember R.J. standing at third base because we knew he needed to play, but we had a middle infielder at that time,” Richey said. “He took it running and played there every day as a sophomore. He has grown up into a heck of a baseball player. His season this year speaks volumes to the dedication and effort he has put into our program.”
Kleber has played second base the past two seasons for the Owls and is the leadoff batter this spring.
This season, the Cougars have a record of 36-15 going into Crossroads League Tournament this weekend.
Keith Veale is currently in his 30th season as head coach of the Cougars.
Over the past 30 years, he has led the Cougars to a 1016-522 overall record, nine conference titles, five National Christian College Athletic Association national championships and the school’s only two berths in the NAIA World Series in 1997 and 2004.
MVNU has also won 30 or more games 23 times under Veale and topped the 40-win mark during six of those years.
The Cougars first reached out to Kleber.
“I was in the middle of a travel tournament, and they came up to me and said they were interested,” Kleber said. “A few months later, I went on a visit and really liked the campus.”
Kleber said he hopes to make an impact right away with his new program.
“They said I have a chance to go up there and start and play,” he said. “It will be a great experience. I just need to keep working.”
He said his coaches at SHS have taught him a lot.
“They’ve taught me more than baseball,” Kleber said. “They have shown me good character while also developing skills.”