Clarion Area Grad Skylar Rhoades Continues Education And Baseball Career At Apprentice School (Posted 09/16/20)

(Above photo: Linda Schirmer of Schirmer Scrapbook Service and Photography)

Clarion Area graduate, Skylar Rhoades has just started his studies/apprenticeship at the Apprentice School in Newport News, Virginia. Skylar is has joined the school’s baseball team.

(Photo by Christie Datko) Skylar on the mound

The Apprentice School was founded in 1919 at Newport News Shipbuilding and is the preeminent apprenticeship program in the nation. The school offers four, five, and eight-year apprenticeships in nineteen shipbuilding disciplines, as well as eight advanced programs of study. At the school, apprentices are given the opportunity to earn college credit, as well as, receive competitive pay and benefits while learning a trade. Their website says, “The school is committed to fostering apprentices’ development of craftsmanship, scholarship and leadership.”

(Photo by Christie Datko) Skylar at the plate

The Apprentice School Builders baseball team competes in the Eastern Metro Athletic Conference.

Skylar mentioned his reasons for attending The Apprentice School, where the trade he will be studying is welding. “The school offers training and educational opportunities. I will be learning a trade and getting paid. Not having debt coming out of school was a motivator for me. Also, I have the chance to continue to play baseball.”

Skylar also said, “I will Apprentice for four years. I will have the opportunity to continue on at the shipyard after that. I also will have the option to continue my education. At the moment, I see myself remaining in Virginia and continuing to work and will consider further education options.”

The Apprentice School baseball team, which plays in the Eastern Metro Athletic Conference, is mentored by Head Coach Bryan Cave, who has well over 700 wins in his 30-plus years at the helm. His Builders have won two U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) National Championships, in 2007 and 2015. They have had numerous top three finishes, as well.

(Apprentice School Photo) Head Coach Bryan Cave

Coach Cave recently said, “These are strange times. I just found out I have to put fall baseball on pause. Hopefully we will be able to resume as the fall is a time I get to thoroughly evaluate new recruits such as Skylar especially when I have not seen them play in person.

“With that said the interaction I have had with Skylar has been positive. (Skylar) appears to be mature and a good looking athlete.

“(Some) things that sold me on Skylar: (He’s) solid academically; knows someone already in school and has done his research on our school. I like versatile players, although his opportunities early on with us may be on the mound. His high school coach is very familiar with our program as he played us while he was with Bloomsburg University, so he knows we are a solid DIII level team. I have a lot of respect for the Bloomsburg players and coaches and Skylar,s high school coach has little doubt he will be a contributor.

“We expect Skylar to fit in well at The Apprentice School as we are one of the most unique schools in the country. Time management is huge as a student/athlete at our school has to juggle academics, athletics as well as performing on the job. I look forward to having Skylar as a member of our team for the next four years.”

Skylar had this to say about joining the Builders, “I am excited about the opportunity to continue playing baseball. The Apprentice School has a great baseball record. I’m excited to play for Coach Cave and get to know my teammates.”

He mentioned some of those who have helped him along the way. “I would like to thank all the coaches I’ve had through the years. Special thanks goes out to Garrett Goheen, Lee Weber and Rob Jewett. Couldn’t be where I am today without them.

“Also thanks to all the teammates I have played with and against throughout all the sports I played to help push me to be a better player.”

What was Skylar’s favorite sports memory? “My favorite high school sport memory is our baseball season we made it to States. I was a 9th grader. There was lots of hard work and great moments that season.” 

(Photo by Christie Datko) 2017 PIAA State Class-A Runners-up

And what about those closest to him, who were there for him? “Thanks to my parents for their support and encouragement with whatever direction I wanted to take. Having my parents, family, friends and teammates’ parents on the sidelines was always great and something I was thankful for having.”

Skylar’s mother Kristie had this to say, “I am so proud of Skylar and have loved every minute of being ‘Sky’s Mom’. I am grateful for this opportunity and path he will be taking.  He is a hard worker with a great work ethic. I know he will excel as an Apprentice. Thanks goes out to Rob Sintobin for talking about the Apprentice School with Skylar and other classmates and his encouragement for Skylar to apply.”

And Kristie’s thanks for those who helped Skylar in baseball and were there to cheer him on, “Making the baseball team is an added bonus! Sky’s love for baseball has meant many years of teams, coaches, teammates, new friends and miles of travel. Many thanks to all the baseball dads throughout the years, from t-ball to high school, for all their time and encouragement. We will miss our “sports family” and the support these parents and families have given us throughout the years.

“I would also like to thank our family and friends. There were countless games, through every kind of weather, to cheer loudly for Sky and team and much understanding of missed family gatherings while we traveled to play ball with Sky.

“As always appreciation for those that have reported on the sporting events and all the great photographers, including the many great action shots from Christie Datko.”

Skylar’s Varsity Coach Rob Jewett had this to say, “Skylar was a great athlete in general.  He worked very hard for me and it showed each year he stepped on the diamond.  Skylar had great instincts in the field (he could pretty much play anywhere) and on the bases (when to steal or when to advance). 

“I really enjoyed watching Skylar patrol center field because he had such a great first reaction, speed and range that he got to balls most fielders wouldn’t.  I am so proud of how matured on the mound.  He threw quite a bit his freshman year and he was very good, but a little raw.  I could see him really start to understand how to pitch and not just throw.  He did a great job setting up his pitches, working the corners of the plate, commanding his pitches, keeping runners close on base, keeping his walks lower every year and he became one of the great power pitchers for Clarion. 

“While it would have been really fun to see how his senior year would have played out, I know he will be very successful in college.  He is a great student of the game and has that passion to want to always be better.  I will miss Skylar a lot, but I can’t wait read about his success at Apprentice!”

Garrett Goheen, who coached Skylar in Little League had this to say, “Skylar was always a special player to me. At age 8, we could see the natural skills he possessed. We could also see the large mechanical flaws in his throwing and his swing. We worked for the better part of his 8 year old summer to ‘get the ball off of his bicep’. He committed to coming out that fall and throwing a lot. The fall before his 9 year old season of Little League was the most important two months of his career. He gained the muscle memory in his right arm to keep the ball high and drive it to the point of home plate. Nothing he was able to accomplish after this change would have been possible without this fix happening first. It was his commitment to practices that were not exciting, or much fun, that kick started his flame throwing right arm.”

(Photo submitted by B&W Smith) Back in the Day: 2014 Meadville Mayhem Classic 12u Tournament Champions B&W Smith Excavating of Clarion…Front row (L-R) Lake Staub, Josh Craig, Cal German, Cole Slaugenhoup…Back Row (L-R) Coach Kenn Staub, Greg Kalinowski, Nate Datko, Nick Frederick, Curvin Goheen, Coach Mike Smith, Skylar Rhoades, Ben Smith, Manager Garrett Goheen

Coach Goheen continued, “One of my other favorite Skylar memories was working on his hitting during All-Stars of his 10 year old year. Skylar could hit the ball hard and far. We didn’t need to fix any of that. What we did need to fix was the fact that he would constantly swing at pitches above his head. Pitchers, with half of his talent, were able to get him out by simply throwing the ball up by his eyes and watching him swing and miss it.

“I devised a very unconventional plan. I put Skylar in the batting cage. I instructed the pitcher to throw him 25 consecutive balls at his eye level. Skylar complained for all twenty-five. Then I told him to get ready to hit. I told the pitcher to throw strikes, but every 3-4 pitches throw one up at his eyes. I stood outside the cage, directly behind him, with an old catcher’s mitt. When the pitcher would throw a high pitch that Skylar swung at, I would throw (underhand) the old catcher’s mitt into the net hitting Skylar in the butt with it. After a week of this, he no longer swung at the high pitches.

“In our opening Sectional game against Union City, the pitcher’s first pitch to Skylar was up at his eyes. Skylar did not swing. The next pitch was down and Skylar hit his first ever Little League homerun on a shot into the centerfield bleachers.

“These are just two of a hundred Skylar stories that I have. He was always the “chosen one” to me. I knew that Clarion County would never be big enough to hold him.

“I want to wish him good luck with every part of his future endeavors.”

Lee Weber an Assistant Coach on Skylar’s Varsity team said,”Skylar was one of the most talented players that came through Clarion Area.  If Skylar makes the right decisions in life, he will be successful on the field!”