by Scott Kindberg
January 14, 2001
Battle's Action Is That Of A Champion
The first thing I’m going to do today is require that my teen-age boys ages 15, 15 and 13, read the newspaper. More specifically, I’m going to ask them to read the following column in hopes that they’ll be touched the same way I was when I received a letter earlier this week from Cynthia Baker of Jamestown.
The subject of her letter – Sheldon Battle – is someone my boys all know.
Shoot, everyone with even the slightest interest in local sports knows Sheldon, a senior at Jamestown High School.
He’s the kid who can throw a 1.6-kilogram discus about as far as I can throw a baseball. He’s the defending New York State Public High School Athletic Association champion and he’s a Junior Olympic All-American.
He’s the kid who, if you take a peek at today’s sports section, is a first-team all-state football player, too, one of the main reasons the Red Raiders didn’t lose a game en route to the state Class AA championship.
He can block, tackle, run, jump and throw with the best athletes who have ever walked the halls at JHS.
But, ladies and gentlemen, that’s not how I prefer to really know Sheldon.
Not anymore. Mrs. Baker’s letter changed all that.
Oh, sure, I’ll always be able to close my eyes and see him pancake some poor linebacker while opening a hole for his buddy, Aaron Leeper.
And I’ll always remember the havoc he created against Lancaster when he recorded 14 tackles and 3 and 1/2 sacks in the Section 6 Class AA championship game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. And I won’t soon forget when he finished second in the nation in the discus at the Junior Olympic Nationals at the University of Buffalo last summer.
Those are memories that can’t be erased.
Yet my most enduring memory of the 17-year old has nothing to do with his athletic accomplishments.
No, the neatest thing about Sheldon is the spontaneous act of kindness he showed to Jim Pollaro, the longtime bus driver for the football team.
It seems the two were talking at the season-ending banquet last month. And as they were reminiscing about the Red Raiders’ wonderful season and looking at the dozens of plaques and trophies that had been presented, Sheldon turned to his 71-year-old friend and extended his hand.
“Jimmy, I appreciate everything you’ve done,” Sheldon said.
And with that, the youngster handed Pollaro a box. In it was a brand-new watch with a “J” on the dial, a gift given to all the seniors on the team by the booster club.
“He told me he couldn’t take it,” Sheldon said, “but I made him take it.”
It was Sheldon’s way of thanking Pollaro, the bus driver and sideline regular since 1993, for his support, counsel and friendship.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Pollaro said. “He wouldn’t take it back.”
Pollaro still has the watch, but he’s not wearing it. In fact, he said it’s still in the box, tucked away in a desk drawer, waiting for the day when Sheldon decides he wants it back.
Battle says the day will never come.
“He can have it,” he said. “This year everybody is going to get a ring for the state championship and that’s a good enough way to remember the season. I think he should just keep it.
“I’ll be going away (to school) and I won’t see him after this year so I gave it to him as something to remember me by.”
Trust me, Sheldon, no one will ever forget you.