Highland's Jared Colbert plays three sports and leads in all of them

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Highland senior catcher Jared Colbert has led the Tartans to the South Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals.

Jared Colbert could play the outfield. He has been a second baseman. He even could pitch.

But he’s a catcher for the Highland baseball team, a sturdy backstop who hits for power and average, guns out base runners and sets the tone for a squad that’s long on talent but short on experience.

Colbert was a standout linebacker for the Tartans’ football team. He was a top light heavyweight for the wrestling team.

He’s a tough guy and a natural leader, so there’s no better spot for him on the baseball field than behind the dish, wrapped in protective padding while directing traffic.

“He’s caught every inning of every game,” Highland coach D.J. Gore said. “He’s thrown out 11 base runners. He’s done a terrific job replacing a four-year starter [Brian Gallante] and handling a young and inexperienced pitching staff.

“His leadership on the field has allowed us to have a successful season.”

Colbert is finishing his impressive athletic career at Highland in the ideal spot, as the lone senior starter for a team in the midst of its biggest week of the long season.

In Highland’s 15-3 victory over GCIT on Monday in the first round of the South Jersey Group 3 tournament, Colbert was 3-for-3 with a double, a home run, and five RBIs.

Camera icon H Rumph Jr./For the Inquirer
Senior catcher Jared Colbert is batting .381 for the Highland baseball team.

On Thursday, the fourth-seeded Tartans meet fifth-seeded Cherry Hill West in the sectional quarterfinals. On Friday, Highland plays Williamstown with a chance to lock up its second straight Tri-County Conference Royal Division title.

“We’re playing good baseball,” Colbert said. “We had a couple games earlier that we let get away that I thought we should have won. But I like the way we’re playing right now.”

Colbert said he has played three sports for most of his life. He entered Highland determined to win 12 varsity letters. He’ll fall just short with 10 — four in football and three each in wrestling and baseball.

Colbert has been front and center for a resurgence in Highland sports. He was part of a football team that set a school record with nine victories in 2016. He helped the wrestling team capture its first sectional title in 22 years in February, notching a big win at 182 pounds in a victory over Cherry Hill West in the South Jersey Group 4 title match.

And in baseball, Colbert has been a top hitter and defensive player for a team in the hunt for its second straight sectional and division crowns. As a junior, Colbert was the Tartans’ starting second baseman.

“I like them all,” Colbert said of the three sports. “Growing up, that’s all I did, play three sports. I knew coming into Highland I was going to do that.

“Football was always my big thing, but baseball last year, that was a good time. I’d say football and baseball are my favorites right now.”

Like most of the dwindling breed of three-sport athletes, Colbert tends to favor the games that are in season. And he’s making the most of his last go-round with the Highland baseball team.

He’s batting .381 with a .453 on-base percentage. He has hit eight doubles and two home runs and scored 21 runs. He’s a catcher who can run, with 16 stolen bases.

“Jared is one of those rare throwback athletes, playing three sports at a high level,” Gore said.

Colbert’s ability to excel at three sports is one thing. But perhaps more telling is that he was a captain of the football, wrestling, and baseball teams as a senior.

“Very rarely do you come across an athlete like Jared who excels at three sports but more importantly provided leadership and is the glue that keeps it together,” Highland football coach Brian Leary said. “Jared will go down as a Highland great.”

Colbert said he’s been a catcher for most of his baseball career.

“I’ve been catching since I was 8 years old,” Colbert said. “Me and my cousin Ryan [a senior catcher for Bishop Eustace who leads the Crusaders with eight home runs], we both caught, worked together, just kind of developed together.

“I feel like I’ve been catching my whole life. I love it back there. I love that you are involved in everything.”

Colbert has been involved in everything during all four years at Highland, playing a sport every season.

He’s been banged around in football and he’s battled in wrestling so it’s only fitting that he’s donning what the old-timers used to call “the tools of ignorance” and manning the most physically demanding position in baseball.

“He leads by example,” Gore said.