Unexpected Heroes: Meet the George Fox Ball Boys



They take the field and the crowd erupts into applause. They proudly wave their caps to the fans. Standing in Stoffer Family Stadium are the symbols of True Blue spirit, the pinnacles of grit and determination, the pride of the athletic department. They are … the ball boys for the George Fox football program. Just like the football team, the ball-boy program is fairly new, but that doesn’t deter them from making their mark on the NCAA Division III, and perhaps, on the sport of football itself.

Their efforts have paid off this season, and they are currently the No. 2-ranked ball-boy team in the national rankings, according to their self-conducted polls. The No. 1 spot is currently held by “Red Lightning,” a one-man ball-boy team with superior speed and agility who assisted Florida State for years and this year graduated to the NFL. But the George Fox ball boys are not daunted. They consider themselves fierce competition for this legendary adversary.

This year’s ball-boy team is made up of six young men who can also be found on the George Fox baseball field come springtime: Nate Higa, a senior pitcher; AJ Valencia, a junior outfielder; Derek Johnson, a sophomore outfielder; Matt Voelzke, a freshman infielder; Sam Swenson, a freshman first baseman; and Houston Thom, a junior first baseman. Derek, Matt and Sam are usually in charge of the visiting team ball-boy operations, while Nate, AJ and Houston manage the Bruins on the home side of the field. “We’re a pretty tight-knit group, I’d say,” says Derek. “We’re all valuable members of this team.” Not just anyone can hold the official title of “George Fox ball boy.”

They say the training, preparation, determination and skill involved is nothing short of heroic, which would leave anyone wondering … What exactly does it take? A superior ability to rotate the ball, focus and hand-eye coordination come to mind. It requires the ability to learn on the fly, too. Derek said they did have a brief opportunity to prepare for the season before it kicked off in early fall. “There was a boot camp we had to go through. We practiced at the scrimmage.”




But nothing is more important than communication among the team members. Veteran ball boy Nate is in his second year on the job. He says, “We have to make sure the right amount of balls are on both sides of the field. It’s a big job.” There’s always room for improvement, and the ball-boy members are dedicated to their craft.

Though some would say they’ve already reached stardom through hard work and dedication, these guys are not your typical sports celebrities. They receive their well-deserved all-star status with humility and a grounded persona. “We work day in and day out to help ensure the best game possible for the football team, and we’re really there for them,” says Houston. But it doesn’t end there. The boys have big goals for the future and hope to apply these acquired ball-boy skills throughout their lives.

There’s a lot of pressure that comes with this job – a lot of expectation, but plenty of rewards. Some hope to follow in the footsteps of their model, “Red Lightning,” and take their talents to the NFL, or as they refer to it, “The League.” “I plan on moving up as an intern with an NFL team” says Derek. His teammate Houston agreed that he also hopes to “make it to ‘The League’ eventually.” The future looks bright for this program. Nate predicted, “I think we’ll be a powerhouse ball-boy program, just like the football team is going to be a powerhouse program.”