Havre de Grace senior outfielder Zack Tabor is in his usual spot, hunched over the fence with his arms dangling as the Warriors' leadoff hitter digs in for the game's first pitch.
Tabor has taken baseball chatter to a unique level. Nicknamed "el pollo loco" — which means "the crazy chicken" in Spanish — he speaks the language fluently, and his constant chirping gets teammates revved up and opponents baffled.
Directly behind him, sitting on the bench, is fellow senior David Jacobs. The team's top pitcher this spring, Jacobs is methodical and calculated — quietly focusing on the task at hand. A little later in the game, after studying a runner on first, he alertly throws him out with a deceptive pickoff move.
Tabor and Jacobs have both excelled playing three sports at Havre de Grace; both were team captains in two sports — sharing the role this spring in baseball — and both are hardworking, all-around good kids who have been close friends since the first grade.
So which one is a candidate for the school's valedictorian in the Class of 2010?
The two saw their high school athletic careers end last Friday when Loch Raven knocked the Warriors out of the regional playoffs, but they still have some academic competing left to do.
The smallest high school in Harford County has a graduating class of 160, and Jacobs is currently No. 1 with a cumulative 4.25 grade-point average. Tabor is No. 2 with a 4.23 GPA.
"It's weird," Jacobs said. "Coming up through elementary school, we were always in the higher-level classes, but I never would have imagined it would have ended up like this. Right now, it's actually 0.02 grade points that separates us. So it comes down to this last quarter in our senior year, and we both have the same amount of [Advanced Placement] courses. Whoever does better in this last quarter will decide it."
The two friends rarely talk about it, going as far as saying it's really not a competition at all. As Jacobs puts it: "No matter what, we're both winners, we're both set to go to great colleges."
Jacobs, who has earned nine varsity letters playing soccer, basketball and baseball, is set to attend Arcadia just outside Philadelphia, where he plans to study math or engineering and hopes to play soccer and baseball. Tabor — who played varsity three years in football and baseball, and wrestled in his junior year — will fulfill his dream of playing Division I football when he enrolls at Pennsylvania to study either history or religion.
Just as on the baseball diamond — where Tabor finished with a team-high .462 batting average and Jacobs was not far behind at .422 — the two are appreciative of how each made the other better in the classroom. Sharing so many classes — five AP courses this quarter alone — they often study together, work on the same projects and bounce ideas off each other.
"Personally, I've always tried to be the best in everything I do," Tabor said. "It's not just to be better than somebody else, but to do the best I can do. And David has always been there to step up the competition. He's always pushed me, and I think I've always done the same for him. It's been pretty cool."
Havre de Grace is a small town in the southeast corner of Harford County where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay. The high school was founded in 1955, and its motto is "Enter to Learn — Leave to Serve."
Jacobs and Tabor, both of whom have extensive extracurricular school resumes and also contribute greatly to the community, have served as role models.
Jacobs leads with hard work on the playing fields and by quietly providing guidance in the classroom. It's not rare to see him take extra time after class to help another student grasp a subject.
Tabor is the "rah-rah" type as a player and the first one to raise his hand to answer a teacher's question — often bringing a unique response to create classroom discussion.
"I think more than anything, those guys are just great examples for not only the team, but the entire school," said Sean Welsh, the baseball coach and a Havre de Grace alumnus. "It's really a small, tight-knit community as far as the school goes — maybe 600-some students in the entire building — and these two are people the entire school looks up to."
Johnny Brooks coached Tabor in football and Jacobs in basketball, and he had both in the classoom.
Tabor, who played on the offensive line, at linebacker and on special teams, never left the field last fall for the Warriors. After his junior season, he told Brooks about his desire to play D-I football.
"He weighed like 160 pounds, and I basically told him he wasn't big enough," Brooks said. "So he came back this year at 200 pounds, and it's all muscle."
For Jacobs, basketball is the sport he is weakest in. Brooks had a deep roster to work with this season and talked to his team captain about the possibility of not playing as many minutes.