By Rich Palzewic
Ashwaubenon senior athlete Boone Kirst had a choice of playing college football or college baseball.
With several Division II football offers, Kirst eventually went the baseball route and chose Central Michigan University (CMU) in Mount Pleasant.
He excelled both on the griddle as a three-year starter at quarterback and as a catcher behind the plate for the Jaguars.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but baseball is my heart,” Kirst said. “I think most people thought I was going down the football route because I’ve been starting since my sophomore year, but I’ve never ruled out baseball.”
Kirst received preferred walk-on status at CMU, so he needs to earn an athletic scholarship by playing on the field.
“[CMU head coach Jordan Bischel]gives me an opportunity to play at the next level — not for now,” said Kirst, who wants to be a teacher. “With my grades, grade point average and ACT score, I earned a nice academic scholarship. I hope if I play well and progress it could lead to an athletic scholarship as well.”
In the recently concluded football season, Kirst was 166 of 266 passing for 1,930 yards with 19 touchdowns for the Jaguars, who finished 3-6 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
Following his junior season in baseball, Kirst was named Fox River Classic Conference Player of the Year.
“I wasn’t sure I would get that honor, but my dad used to be a coach at Ashwaubenon and I’ve seen a lot of good players,” Kirst said. “It was a surprise that I got it – I was happy.”
CMU has been on Kirst’s radar for quite some time.
“I’ve always liked that they’re a smaller school, but they find a way to attend their conference and do well in the regional competitions,” he said. “My father used to play for St. Norbert, then he came back and trained coach Bischel.”
Bischel, a 1999 Notre Dame Academy graduate, accepted the job as the Chippewas’ head coach in June 2018.
Bischel, former manager of the Green Bay Bullfrogs — now the Green Bay Rockers — of the Northwoods League from 2009 to 2012, helped guide CMU to a 143-57 record in his four seasons at Mount Pleasant.
The Chippewas play in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and have only had five coaches in the past seven decades.
To improve his baseball skills, Boone said he decided not to go to basketball during his senior season.
Ashwaubenon reached the WIAA Division 2 state tournament last season but lost to Pewaukee in the state semifinals.
“I’ve always played three sports, so I’ve never had the time to focus on one sport,” he said. “Because I don’t play basketball, I will lift weights and improve as a baseball player.”
Boone said it was another difficult decision.
“It was a great run last season and Mark Tomashek (Ashwaubenon head coach) did so much for me,” he said. “It was difficult telling the guys on the team my plans, but I thought it best to prepare for college baseball.”