LEEPER, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Aiden Hartle had grown weary of waiting around for an opportunity.
The North Clarion senior decided to seize one on his own.
(Pictured above, from left: Misty Hartle, Aiden Hartle, Roddy Hartle and Ainsley Hartle as Aiden signs his national letter of intent to play baseball at Clarion University/Submitted photo)
In October, Hartle set up a workout with the Clarion University baseball coaches. He took infield, stepped into the cage to take some swings and threw a bullpen session.
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When Hartle unleashed a sizzling fastball on his final pitch of his hour-long workout, he and Clarion head baseball coach Doc Neiman shared a knowing look.
“That put the icing on the cake,” Hartle said. “We were standing on the mound after I threw my hardest fastball on my last pitch. He kind of looked at me. I looked at him and I kind of knew what he was going to say. And he said it and it was a great thing. We both smiled.”
Neiman offered Hartle on the spot.
And Hartle took it.
It was the culmination of a dream that Hartle has nurtured since he first threw a baseball at the age of four: to play at the next level.
“I was definitely very happy,” Hartle said. “I couldn’t wait to get to my car and call my dad (Roddy Hartle). He’s probably my biggest influencer. It was so cool to be able to give him that phone call and tell him the great news.”
Hartle always had his eye on Clarion. It was close to his Leeper home. It was a program in the baseball-rich Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. And it was a supreme challenge.
“It was always kind of my dream to be able to play close to home and play at the college level,” Hartle said. “It was cool that way. They were always pretty high on the list.”
Hartle will take some burgeoning abilities to the Golden Eagles next season.
He has a fastball that right now sits in the mid-to-upper-80s — he feels like he can add more velocity. Hartle also has command of a variety of secondary pitches: a cutter, curveball and changeup.
His out pitch is his heavy fastball.
“I throw a fastball when I’m trying to put someone away,” Hartle said. “I’m working a lot on mobility stuff (with my arm). Getting rotation and hopefully velocity will come with that.”
Hartle has also been working on his curveball. When that pitch is on, he’s been very effective.
It was a tough spring for North Clarion during a soggy 2021 season. The weather didn’t cooperate and the Wolves were only able to get on the field 13 times.
Hartle managed just 22⅔ innings between the rainouts, striking out 26.
“It was very hard last year,” Hartle said. “You’re halfway through your day and you don’t even know if you are going to have a game because of the weather. It’s tough to prepare for that. But that’s this area.”
Hartle, who is also a standout basketball player for North Clarion, is already thinking about how he can improve for his first taste of college baseball next year.
“I lift every morning,” Hartle said. “I’m trying to lift heavier and learn new things. I’m going to throw a lot, honestly. That’s the best way to get ready and get your arm strong and in shape. We’ll get ready.”
Clarion has struggled on the baseball diamond in recent years, going 10-36 last season.
But Neiman and his staff have been determined to draw talent into the program and build toward competing better against the top teams in the very strong PSAC.
Hartle hopes to be a big part of that rebuild in the future.
“They’re definitely trying to build it back up,” Hartle said. “I’m going to go there with all intentions of helping them do that and win games.”
Hartle is also a standout guard for the North Clarion basketball team.
Last year, he averaged 15.5 points, six assists and five rebounds per game for the Wolves.
He’s hoping to build on that with a young team around him this season.
“We have some young guys coming in, some juniors and sophomores, that I think will be able to fill those shoes of the players we lost,” Hartle said. “They’ve been around for awhile, growing up watching the older guys. They kind of got a feel for what they are stepping into.”
Hartle grew up playing both basketball and baseball. He’s been able to balance them both.
Now with his college decision made, he said he’ll be able to really enjoy his last high school season in both sports.
“It’s a great feeling,” Hartle said. “It’s definitely nice to sign and get it done and out of the way. I can enjoy this last year with my friends and everyone.”