Then he visited the United States Military Academy at West Point, and as he strolled among the imposing stone edifices out of which have walked some of America’s greatest leaders, sharpest minds and bravest heroes for more than 200 years, Halas realized there were no other options. West Point was where he needed to be.
In a brief ceremony at Danbury High School last Tuesday, Halas finalized his decision by signing his National Letter of Intent to play baseball at West Point.
“Once I stepped on the campus at West Point, it was magical,” Halas said. “The feeling was indescribable. I knew right then and there it was a place I was highly interested in. And after talking with the coaches and discussing it with my parents and all my peers around me, I decided I wanted to go there, both for the career opportunity and the baseball opportunity.”
In exchange for his education, Halas will have to pay back five years of military service after he graduates. That fact alone is enough to deter many excellent students and prolific athletes from even visiting one of the service academies. For others, like Halas, that’s the whole point. It’s about sacrificing for the greater good, about standing a post on the front lines of freedom to protect all which America holds dear.
“I’ll do it for pride, honor, and to give back to my country,” he said, “and also to make the best name I can for myself.
“My grandfather and his brothers all served in World War II, and a couple of them lost their lives,” Halas added. “That’s another reason why I was interested in doing this. Just looking at what they had given for us, it’s the least I could do, to give back.”
The Army baseball program welcomed a new head coach in June, when former Boston College and University of Rhode Island coach Jim Foster took the helm. Danbury High baseball coach Shaun Ratchford is confident he’ll be handing over to Foster an excellent catcher and a stand-up young man next year.
“That’s not just a baseball decision he made, he made a life decision that will benefit him well beyond being a baseball player,” Ratchford said. “With the tools and the work ethic that Michael brings, he’s going to be very successful there. It’s a incredible honor for his family because, as teachers, we say that the nuts don’t fall far from the tree, so obviously, the skills that they liked in him were the skills that were given to him by his parents. That work ethic, that drive, that tenacity that he has.”
Ratchford could tell early on that Halas was different, special. He saw his first varsity action as a freshman in a state tournament game. He’s been a regular in the Hatter lineup ever since.
“Michael has presence,” Ratchford said. “You can’t coach that.”
Just like honor.
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