BASEBALL: Grant Park's Timmons earned associate's degree during season

Grant Park’s Nick Timmons, right, slaps hands with teammate Travis Fick after scoring a run earlier this season. Timmons, a home-schooled student who lives in Grant Park, graduated with an associate degree from Terra State Community College in Fremont, Ohio, during the season.

While student-athletes across the area spent their spring sports seasons with multiple 12-hour days per week, dedicating time to both studies and sports, a Grant Park baseball player upped that ante this year.

Nick Timmons, a home-schooled sophomore who lives in Grant Park and played for the Dragons this season, earned a degree many of his senior peers didn’t earn when they celebrated their high school graduations — an associate degree.

Timmons celebrated his own sort of graduation earlier this month when he earned an associate degree in history from Terra State Community College in Fremont, Ohio. He began his college days as a young teenager through Ohio’s College Credit Plus program, which allows students to take college-level courses and use them as both high school and college credits.

“I started in seventh grade, the first year for kids to take [College Credit Plus],” Timmons said. “You could take up to six classes a semester, and if you took a college class, it counted as a high school class. That led to me working toward my associate degree.”

Timmons and his family moved from Ohio in November and settled in Grant Park. Illinois High School Association By-law 3.011 allows home-schooled students to play for sports teams at the public school in their district of residence.

When baseball came around, Timmons showed up to the first day of practice and met his new teammates and peers, something that isn’t always easy for a student who strolls down the more unusual path of home-schooling.

“I just showed up and the kids acted like I’ve been here the entire time,” Timmons said. “You just come and be yourself — if they pick on you for being home-schooled, they pick on you for being home-schooled; you just have to go out and play ball.

“But these guys have been very good teammates.”

Dragons coach Desi Desiderio said if he hadn’t known Timmons’ background coming in, he never would have been able to tell Timmons had a different background than the rest of the team.

“This is my first experience with a home-schooled player, and if I hadn’t known, I would have been none the wiser,” Desiderio said. “The boys accepted him, and he’s done what I’m asked him to do.

“He’s just a good kid in general and a part of our success.”

Will Schneider, Timmons’ senior teammate, said while it was different having someone join up with the team after school, that hasn’t changed how he viewed his teammate.

“It’s been different since he’s not at school and we just see him at practice,” Schneider said. “But he’s a good kid and everything.”

The Dragons saw their season ended by the hands of Cissna Park in the IHSA Class 1A Grant Park Regional championship. But just because Timmons has a college degree doesn’t mean he won’t be back with the Dragons.

Because of both his age and the number of high school-level courses he has completed, Timmons is considered a high school sophomore, something the recent college graduate doesn’t mind, as it will allow him to play with the Dragons for two more years.

“I’m taking a step back and going to high school,” Timmons said. “I have a few requirements left, but when I finish, I can’t play ball here, so I’m just going along with it.”

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