Jack Herman could spend his senior season on cruise control.
He could spend this spring putting the finishing touches on his legacy, updating his resume, polishing his career to a bright shine before taking his unique skill set to the college or professional level.
But that’s not his style. Eastern’s splendid centerfielder plays hard ball, grinding out every at-bat and running the bases and playing his position with near-reckless abandon.
Here’s the thing, too: Herman enters his last season as the rarest of scholastic athletes, an established star with something still to prove.
“Last year was tough,” Herman said. “I was hurt and I took it to heart too much.”
Herman begins his final season on a mission. He’s determined not just to finish strong and help the Vikings maintain their position as one of South Jersey’s top teams but also to wash away the remnants of a difficult junior year.
“First time I was ever really hurt,” Herman said. “I had a cast when I was younger but I played with it. This was the first time I had to sit out and I didn’t handle it too well.”
Herman already has put together a terrific career. Remember, this is an athlete so established as a middle-schooler that he had committed to the University of Maryland before he took his first swing as a freshman for Eastern.
He is a four-year starter. He probably was South Jersey’s top position player as a sophomore, when he batted .553 with 38 RBIs and set school records for hits (52) and home runs (9) in a season.
Eastern coach Rob Christ calls Herman “a superior talent” who ranks among the top all-around players in recent South Jersey history.
“He loves the game of baseball,” Christ said of Herman. “He loves to compete.”
Herman is a true five-tool player who can run, throw, field and hit for both average and power. He has drawn the interest of professional scouts, and knows he could be selected sometime in the major-league draft in June.
One of Herman’s best friends, former Eastern star Davis Schneider, signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in June after being selected in the 28th round.
Herman said he might decide to follow Schneider’s footsteps and proceed right from high school to professional baseball.
“I’m 100 percent open to it,” Herman said. “College is a good route for me or pro ball is a good route for me. I think I’ll do well either way.
“It depends on the money, the round, the interest they have in me.”
Herman believes he has the maturity to proceed directly to the professional game.
“I’ve talked to my parents a million times about it,” Herman said. “I feel like I’m mature enough to handle it.
“But if the money is not there and I feel like my skills are still lacking a little bit for pro ball, then I’ll be going to college.”
Herman has spoken with Schneider as well as former Millville star Buddy Kennedy, a fifth-round pick in 2017 who signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“He’s enjoying it,” Herman said of Schneider. “He just came back from the Dominican Republic. He said all he did was eat chicken and rice and play baseball in the hot weather.
“Ever since we’ve been younger, baseball has been everything to us. It’s almost been like a job to us since we were seven years old, we’ve loved playing so much.
“I talked to Buddy Kennedy too. He couldn’t love it more either.”
Herman was hurt while trying to check a swing in a game during Eastern’s trip to Southern California last April. He ended up dislocating his left shoulder.
“It popped out and popped back in,” Herman said. “That night, it blew up like a balloon.
“I couldn’t even swing. I didn’t even tell my parents until we got back. I was distraught.”
Herman came back late in the season but wasn’t 100 percent. He ended up playing in 15 games for Eastern, batting .311 with five extra-base hits. He said he didn’t feel right until the middle of the summer.
“I was scared to swing,” Herman said. “I didn’t want anything to happen again.”
Last season’s frustration has only served as fuel for Herman heading into his final season. He also took the experience as a life lesson.
“I wanted so bad to get better but I was frustrated because I couldn’t play,” Herman said. “And when I came back I wasn’t the same player. It hurt me a little.
“I evaluated myself during the summer and it was a learning experience.
“All the obstacles you have to go through in life, that was just one of them.
“Now every obstacle that’s thrown at me, I know to take it as a positive and take something out of it.”
Herman said he worked harder than ever in the offseason to prepare for his final two months in a Vikings uniform.
“I’m trying to take day in and day out, enjoy it,” Herman said. “This offseason is probably the hardest I ever worked. Every day in the gym, hitting every day, working out every day, it was a grind, so this season I’m trying to enjoy every little thing about it.
“Whether we win it all or lose it all, as long as we put everything we had into it, I’m happy with it.”
Herman said he’s determined to finish his career with the flourish, both to cement his own legacy as one of the best players in Eastern history and also to honor the program’s rich tradition.
“Eastern means the world to me,” Herman said. “I owe it to these kids to give everything I have.
“Being all-in is very important to me.”