Kirtland senior Joey Bates is one of the most decorated athletes in school history.
Bates led the Kirtland football team to two state championships. As a senior he broke the school single season rushing record and is a two-time all-Ohioan and was named the 2015 Division VI Offensive Player of the Year.
He also has earned four letters in baseball and helped the Hornets advance to the 2015 Division III district championship game. That was the furthest any Kirtland baseball team had advanced in the postseason.
On Wednesday, Bates was recognized by Lake Health as the Student Athlete of the Year and was awarded a $3,000 scholarship he will use to offset the costs of attending John Carroll University, where he will continue his education and football career.
“I was ecstatic and very grateful,” Bates said. “There were several outstanding student-athletes also nominated, so I was surprised and very thankful that Lake Health gave me the opportunity to use the scholarship to benefit me in college.”
And as he has throughout his career, Bates credited his teammates, coaches, friends and family for all of his success.
“I just really feel that without all of those people, I would not be close to where I am today,” he said.
Bates was first nominated as the Lake Health Student Athlete of the Month. The monthly winners then submitted an application and essay to be considered for the annual award.
“There was a small rubric that went along with it about athletic achievements, people or events that influenced me, community service and personal goals,” Bates said. “We also had to submit two letters of recommendation and an official transcript.”
Kirtland football coach Tiger LaVerde and baseball coach Luke Smrdel submitted the letters of recommendation.
“He is the total package,” LaVerde said. “He is a good student. He is kind, humble, respectful, and extremely hard-working. He is exactly what you want your son to grow up and be like when he gets older.”
Smrdel shared similar praise for Bates.
“I'm very proud of him,” Smrdel said. “He is a model student athlete and one of the greatest kids I have ever been around.”
In his essay, Bates credited his parents for pushing him to be the best he could be.
“Throughout my whole life, my parents have pushed me to be the best person that I can be in life,” Bates wrote. “Every day when I walk out the door, whether it be for school or just to go somewhere in general, my mom always tells me to, ‘Make a difference.’ At first, I always brushed this aside and didn’t think much of it, but as I get older, I am starting to realize the significance of the statement. Making a positive difference in someone else’s life is also a goal that I take with me everywhere and every day.”
Bates is as active off the playing field as he is on it.
As a junior and senior he volunteered with Give A Hand, Take A Hand, a suicide prevention program that provides freshmen students with coping strategies to deal with stress, anger, anxiety and depression. He also interned at University Hospitals and was a member of Key Club, Student Council, Foreign Language Club and he volunteered to deliver food and other household items to the less fortunate during the holidays.
Bates is undecided on a college major but he knows he wants to be involved in a career that will help improve the lives of others.
“My goal for later in life though is to make a positive impact on people’s lives,” he wrote. “I get a thrill from helping people and seeing the brightness and happiness from them after is something that money could never buy. Making a positive difference in someone’s life every day would be an incredibly rewarding experience and is my career goal I have set for myself.”