Notre Dame High School senior Steven Graver is leaning on God not only during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also for his future at West Point. Courtesy photo
Notre Dame High School senior Steven Graver is leaning on God not only during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also for his future at West Point. Courtesy photo
" There is no better way to prepare yourself for life than to attend West Point. " Steven Graver
Like every other New Jersey high school senior athlete, Notre Dame’s Steven Graver is not happy about sitting out his final spring season. But there are two things that keep Graver going every day – his faith and his future.

The tall, lanky pitcher, who went undefeated as a junior, was recently accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he will play baseball and prepare to serve his country. Graver considers himself fortunate, since he realizes that sports are still in his future after high school.

And yet, sitting at home does not bode well for the Yardley, Pa., resident who belongs to St. Ignatius of Antioch Parish in his hometown.

“Having your senior year being delayed and potentially canceled is tough to deal with,” Graver said. “Training with your teammates in the offseason and even that first week of tryouts and then having something unforeseen like this happen is tough to deal with. For many this is their last chance to go out and play ball before going to college.” (Since the time of this interview, the spring sports season has been canceled.)

GRAVER, WHO WAS ALSO a regular for the Irish basketball team, was poised for a big campaign. He led the Lawrenceville high school in victories last year while going 7-0 with a 1.12 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 50 innings. He was named All-Colonial Valley Conference and All-Area. As a sophomore, the right-hander went 1-0 with a 1.97 ERA in 10-2/3 innings.

With the beginning of the season taken away due to a state shutdown, Graver is coping in his usual way.

“It helps in a time like this [to know] that keeping my faith will help me get through the situation,” he said. “Knowing that there is a greater good looking out for me and leading me provides reassurance.”

Graver practices his faith well beyond the walls of St. Ignatius. He is a member of Catholic Athletes for Christ and belongs to his school’s newly formed Baseball Bible Study Group. Those lessons are applied to his everyday life.

“Steven has performed community service where he volunteers his time to help others,” coach Joe Drulis said. “Faith is a very important component in Steven’s life – in his studies, in his athletic competitions and spiritually.”

Baseball is also important, as is the U.S. Army. Both run in the family.

“Steven had a great role model in his brother,” Drulis said.

Jarrad Graver went 10-1 and made All-State as a Notre Dame senior in 2016. After pitching for one year at Alvernia University, a Catholic university in Reading, Pa., he decided to enlist in the Army. He is currently training for Special Operations in the South.

Steven Graver was being recruited by Arcadia and Immaculata Universities and Washington College in Maryland, but the lure of Division I baseball and the chance to become a military officer proved too much to resist.

“When I attended a prospect camp at West Point and spoke to coach [Jim] Foster, I knew that if I was offered a spot that I would go there,” Graver said.

It did not hurt that former teammate Robbie Buecker, a 2019 Notre Dame graduate, also plays for the Cadets. Like Graver, Buecker is a strong believer in faith and helped get a Bible study group started for the Irish football team.

“Being able to play with Robbie again is definitely a bonus,” Graver said. “Being able to hear what life inside West Point was actually like from someone who is currently there helped me base my decision.”

Drulis feels that Graver has everything it takes to succeed at West Point, both as a student and player. It is a rigid lifestyle, but nothing new to the senior.

“He is very disciplined,” Drulis said. “During the off-season, he puts in the work to be a better student-athlete. In baseball, whether it’s practice or a game, the coaches know that they will get 100 percent out of Steven.”

ON AND OFF THE FIELD, Graver also possesses the intangibles that are so necessary to being an officer. 

“As a team leader, Steven is quiet but leads through example,” Drulis continued. “He works on the pitching mound and teaches the younger players how to keep the pitching area in shape. When doing sprints, Steven is going all out, and the younger players see this and follow his example. He is a very mature, responsible player. Steven is about the team and the team’s success. 

“Steven is just a good person who does the right thing. He is respectful and converses with people and asks about you.”

Those qualities impressed Foster, along with Graver’s impressive 6-foot-7 frame, the movement on his sinker and fastball and his demeanor on the mound. He has that bulldog mentality of wanting to win, and does not get flustered when something goes wrong.

“He knows that he has to focus on the next pitch, the next batter,” Drulis said.

Buecker was the same way, and the fact that Notre Dame will have two graduates at such an esteemed institution is a tribute to the sports program, Drulis said.

“Having two players at Army-West Point is a great accomplishment for the individual player, for the entire coaching staff, and for Notre Dame High School,” Drulis said. “It’s an awesome feeling, for sure!”

Though the coronavirus pandemic has left Graver’s senior sports year in flux,  he still has much to look forward to in the coming months. He has not decided on what career path to pursue, but knows some fascinating choices will be offered over the next four years.

“When the opportunity to attend West Point came around, it was hard to turn down,” he said. “There is no better way to prepare yourself for life than to attend West Point.”