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Most college freshmen must go through a significant adjustment period in the first few weeks of school. Home is often thousands of miles away, family members are no longer around the corner and high school friends and teachers fade into memories.
Such is not the case for freshmen Zak Farkes and Josh Klimkiewicz. Both went to school at Buckingham, Browne & Nichols High School, a prestigious private day school within five minutes walking distance from Harvard’s athletic facilities. Both played baseball together for BB&N, winning Independent School League championships in 2001 and 2002. And both will be playing the infield for this year’s Harvard baseball squad. “If you hit a bomb on our field, it can land in BB&N, where Zak and Josh played,” Walsh says. “It’s important for us at Harvard to get the kids who are in our own backyard. I can’t take credit for digging deeply throughout the country for Zak and Josh, but they were both well-known prospects.”
While BB&N is known for sending students to Harvard, few BB&N players have ever played baseball for the Crimson. BB&N coach Rick Forestiere’s cannot remember memory two BB&N graduates ever playing on the same Harvard team, let alone two classmates. Klimkiewicz and Farkes will be starting for Harvard as freshmen, the former at third base and the latter at second.
“They are two of the finest players I’ve ever coached,” Forestiere says. “Zak is one of the best to ever play the game at BB&N. He’s a leader, he’s the hardest of workers and he’s extraordinarily talented. He’s irreplaceable. Josh is the best high school hitter I’ve seen or coached. He’s offensively scary.”
The two players’ paths first crossed in the spring of 2000. At the time, Farkes was the starting second baseman for BB&N, beginning his third season on the varsity team. Sensing his immense talent, Forestiere allowed Farkes to play with the high schoolers when he was only in eighth grade.
“I won more than 100 games in my high school career. Not that many high school teams play that many games, so I was lucky to get so much playing time,” Farkes says.
Klimkiewicz transferred to BB&N that year from St. Sebastian’s, another local private school that competes in the ISL. A junior, Klimkiewicz decided to stay back a year in order to switch schools.
“I went to BB&N for academics, primarily,” Klimkiewicz says. “I wanted to go to Harvard and I knew about BB&N’s baseball program, so it seemed like a good match.” Klimkiewicz immediately became the starting shortstop for Forestiere’s club, though baseball was not Klimkiewicz’s only athletic interest.
“My dream growing up was to play hockey for Harvard,” Klimkiewicz admits. “Baseball was only something to do on the side.”
The Lexington, Mass. native also played football in high school, a choice that would drastically impact his senior year. On October 27, 2001, Klimkiewicz tore his left ACL in a freak accident on a kickoff, forcing him to sit out his senior baseball season. It was the first time all season Klimkiewicz had been in on a special teams play. The year before, in his second “junior” season at BB&N, Klimkiewicz won the ISL MVP, batting .478 with eight home runs, 48 RBI and 15 stolen bases.
If Klimkiewicz had not won the league’s MVP, Farkes likely would have taken home the award. He finished the year with a .452 batting average and hit seven home runs of his own. While Klimkiewicz watched from the sidelines during his senior season, Farkes became BB&N’s all-around star. He followed Klimkiewicz’s lead, taking home the ISL’s MVP award in 2002.
At Harvard, Klimkiewicz, who says his knee is “100-percent, completely healed,” will likely start at third base and bat fifth or sixth in the line-up. While Klimkiewicz moves one position to the left, Farkes will most likely be moving between positions. The Boston, Mass. resident, who grew up with season tickets to Red Sox games, has played both shortsop and second base this season.
“Zak is the kind of versatile infielder that I like,” Walsh says.
Farkes will likely rotate between hitting second and third as the season progresses.
“I think [Farkes’] spot is going to eventually be in the three-hole for us,” Walsh says. “He’s a three-hole type of hitter.
“As for Josh,he’s got great power potential. I spent ten years in Wareham in the Cape Cod League, and I’ve never seen any player take a ball over the center field fence. When Klim was a junior, I saw him—with a wooden bat—drive a ball over the centerfield fence there. I just said, ‘Whoa!’ That doesn’t come along too often.”
How did both of these sensational stars end up at Harvard? For Farkes, it was a dream come true.
“I always wanted to go to Harvard, growing up,” Farkes says. “When Coach Walsh called, I told him it was a dream of mine. Baseball has always been the number one thing in my life—family and baseball. I have three younger brothers, and we’re all close, so I didn’t want to go too far away. Harvard was perfect.”
Klimkiewicz had other plans. After his MVP junior season, Klimkiewicz was approached by professional scouts interested in drafting him directly out of high school. But after he tore his ACL, professional interest died down.
“Some of the scouts and the big Division I schools weren’t as sure about me after the knee injury, but Coach Walsh told me he had seen the injury before and actually even recommended a rehab guy for me to work with,” Klimkiewicz says. “Sometimes you dream about being down south, playing baseball all year in the warm weather, but you don’t turn down Harvard, especially when you have just as good a chance of being drafted playing here as you do there.”
Klimkiewicz has not given up on his dream to play professional baseball.
“I can’t picture a better life than playing in the Majors,” he says. “That’s still my dream. I’ll get my chance [at being drafted] in a couple years, so we’ll see what happens then. Hopefully, I’ll become a better player than what I would have been coming out of high school.”
In the meantime, these two freshmen should at least become famous among Harvard baseball fans. Will there be competition for that spotlight between two players seemingly linked by a higher power? Only the friendly kind.
“Josh and I use competition to push each other,” Farkes says. “We really just want to see the other one do better. We’ve been friends for a long time, going through the process together and having similar conversations about ending up where we are today.”
Make no mistake about it—these two high school teammates are for real. In Harvard’s 10-9 loss to perennial powerhouse, No. 13 Miami, Farkes went 4-for-6 with three runs scored. Klimkiewicz added three RBI, singling and doubling in four at-bats.
Coach Walsh is not the only one who recognizes the talent of the “BB&N connection.” Senior catcher Brian Lentz got a good look at Farkes this past summer when the two played in the Boston Intercity League.
“In just a few games here already, he’s established himself as a great defensive middle infielder,” Lentz said. “And he hits the crap out of the ball all the time.”
Klimkiewicz had the opportunity to face Harvard’s most recent MLB draft pick, Ben Crockett ’02, in a charity game in the summer of 2001.
“He throws hard,” Klimkiewicz chuckles. But did Klimkiewicz get a hit? “A double,” he says. “But [Crockett] said he grooved it in there for me.”
A high school junior doubling off Harvard’s best pitcher in recent history? Unusual, to say the least. But Klimkiewicz and Farkes are an unusual duo. High school teammates, who once played ball five minutes from O’Donnell Field, will now try to lead the Crimson to an Ivy League Championship in their freshmen seasons.
—Staff writer Alex M. Sherman can be reached at email@example.com.
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