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The Bryce is right: Leadership a big part of Helmer’s makeup

Courtesy photo Bryce Helmer was going to be a team captain for the Hollidaysburg baseball team this season.

Senior salute

The Mirror is recognizing some high school senior spring sports athletes who missed out on their final scholastic seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

HOLLIDAYSBURG — According to Hollidaysburg Area High School baseball coach Jon Szynal, Golden Tigers senior left-handed pitcher Bryce Helmer possesses all the personal qualities that are necessary for achieving success in a military career.

Szynal praised Helmer’s reliability, work ethic, leadership ability, team-first mentality and poise on the field, which are all attributes that will enable Helmer to acclimate smoothly to the disciplined and regimented military lifestyle.

That’s excellent for Helmer, a straight-A student at Holllidaysburg who has been accepted into the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and will begin his studies there this fall.

“I think that he is the type of kid who the Air Force is probably looking for,” Szynal said of Helmer, who carded a 3-2 pitching record with 18 strikeouts and only nine walks in 27 innings pitched for the Golden Tigers as a junior last spring.

He was set to become Hollidaysburg’s top returning pitcher this season before the COVID-19 pandemic brought about the cancellation of all PIAA spring sports.

“His composure was something that we were really thrilled with when he was out on the mound for us last year,” Szynal said of Helmer, who was a first-year varsity starting pitcher last season. “He had a very good idea of what he wanted to do, he located his pitches very well, he worked ahead in the count and he never got rattled if something bad happened. Overall, he’s just a really, really good kid. If you’ve been accepted into the Air Force Academy, you’re doing something right. There are kids from every state who are trying to get in there, and here he is from little Hollidaysburg, and he made it.”

Helmer, who stands six feet tall and weighs in at 170 pounds, will study for an aeronautical engineering degree at the Air Force Academy. He hopes to eventually become a pilot, and make a career out of the military.

Gaining admission to one of the service academies is, in and of itself, a demanding and difficult process, Helmer said.

“It’s a very long process, with a lot of interviews,” Helmer said. “I know that it’s going to be tough the next four years, but I also know that it is going to be fun to go through. I’ll have a lot of great experiences, and it will be an honor to serve my country after I graduate in four years.”

The cancellation of spring sports this season was a double-whammy for Helmer and the Tigers’ baseball program. Helmer was one of six senior pitchers on Hollidaysburg’s 2020 roster, and Szynal expected big things for both Helmer and the entire team.

“I named him a team captain because of his leadership ability,” Szynal said. “He really came through for us big-time last year, and I know that he was looking forward to his senior season, and obviously, we were really looking forward to having him pitch for us this year. Starting out this season, he would have been our number one (pitcher), our ace.

“We thought that we could have a pretty strong year as a team this year,” Szynal said. “We thought that we were good at every position, and that’s pretty rare at the high school level, at least in my experience. And then, this happened.”

Helmer, although disappointed about the cancellation of the season, expressed gratitude for his baseball experiences at Hollidaysburg, and his thanks to Szynal and Golden Tigers’ junior varsity coach Dick Smith, who worked with him for two seasons, as well as to his travel team baseball coach, Dave Brisbin.

“I’ve been playing baseball since T-ball, and I was very disappointed when I heard (the spring sports had been cancelled),” said Helmer, who was also a two-year varsity swimmer at Hollidaysburg. “Your senior season is something that you look forward to throughout your baseball career, and knowing that it has been taken away definitely hurt.

“But the time that I had with the Hollidaysburg program in the past three years in school has meant a lot to me,” Helmer said.

Included in Helmer’s accomplishments last season was an 11-0, five-inning, no-hitter victory over Punxsutawney, in which he allowed only one baserunner, via a walk.

“It was a thrill,” Helmer said. “Going into the season, I definitely wasn’t expecting that.”

More unexpected thrilling accomplishments are undoubtedly on the horizon for Helmer.

“He did everything that we asked him to do, and he’d do it to the best of his ability, and with a smile on his face,” Szynal said. “He was just thrilled and happy to be playing high school baseball.”

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