April 29, 2010

By Amy Farnum

They may go to vastly different academic institutions located more than one-thousand miles apart and play baseball in different NCAA divisions, but the Koenigsfeld brothers are getting incredibly similar results on the field and in the classroom.

While growing up in New Port Richey, Fla., Valdosta State senior Jon Koenigsfeld, a shortstop for the Division II Blazers, and Army junior pitcher and outfielder Ben Koenigsfeld learned from an early age the importance of effort and commitment in all of facets of their lives.

Their parents, Randy and Terry, set the tone for their sons, especially with Randy's career as a teacher and eventually the principal of Ridgewood H.S., where the boys attended.

"Our parents were always supportive and made sure we did well academically," said Jon. "They raised us right and made sure we were on top of it. We've always tried to do everything to the best of our ability - whether it was baseball or basketball or academics. We had the push from a young age, and I think we kind of took it from there and ran with it."

Jon set the bar high for the younger Ben, starting on the school's varsity baseball team as a freshman and then becoming valedictorian of his graduating class.

"(Jon) was always someone I looked up to," said Ben. "Academically, he was always strong and as the valedictorian and gave me that goal to strive for. I definitely have used him as an example and motivation to keep going."

With Jon as a great example, it was no surprise that Ben also made varsity as a freshman and was the valedictorian of his high school class.

The Koenigsfeld brothers' list of accomplishments was just getting started in high school as they have both gone on to have stellar collegiate careers.

Jon, who carries a 4.0 grade point average, was named to the ESPN the Magazine All-Academic Team and selected to the Gulf South Conference's Top 10 as one of the league's best student-athletes last year. He is currently batting .385 with 52 runs scored and 40 RBI for the Blazers, who finished second in the GSC East standings, and recently garnered first team All-GSC honors.

Ben, who last year became the first player in Patriot League history to earn first team all-conference honors at two different positions, was the 2009 Patriot League Pitcher of the Year. He was selected to the ESPN The Magazine University Division Academic All-America District 1 Second Team with a 3.58 GPA last season and is one of Black Knights' captains as a junior. Ben currently is batting .350 and owns a 2-2 record on the mound for Army, which has already secured the top seed in the upcoming Patriot League Championship.

Juggling athletics and academics is tough for any student-athlete, but the Koenigsfelds have each learned what works for them.

"It all comes down to being able to manage your time," said Jon. "You have to stay up late some nights and get some work done. I've been able to use bus rides as a way to catch up on some work, and in hotels on road trips."

"At first, it was difficult because baseball is so much more of a time commitment here than in high school," said Ben. "The main thing I do is when I'm out there playing baseball, I focus on that, and when I'm doing schoolwork I commit to that. I just separate the two. There's enough time to do both - you just have to focus and do it right."

Jon commends Ben on his ability to balance baseball, school and the added responsibilities of attending a military academy.

"(Ben's) got an even tougher schedule than I do with all the stuff he goes through," said Jon. "I give him a lot of credit."

The brothers keep in touch through phone calls and texts, and keep tabs on the other's play through the Internet. Jon has been able to attend a couple of Ben's games over the last two years, including Army's NCAA Regional appearance at the University of Texas last season - just weeks after earning NCAA Division II South Regional All-Tournament honors with the Blazers.

Jon and the Blazers will compete in the GSC Tournament beginning May 1 in Millington, Tenn., while Ben's Army squad will finish out the regular season over the next two weeks before playing in the Patriot League Championship starting May 15.