Conner savors summer with the Bees
By Chris Faulkner for the Beacon
Baseball player Jeron Conner hasn’t drifted too far from home, or home plate, growing up in Burlington playing the game he loves. Conner graduated from Burlington Notre Dame in 2020, spent two seasons playing multiple positions at Carl Sandburg Community College in Galesburg, Ill., and settling in as a pitcher this summer for the Burlington Bees and then in the fall for Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant. Conner just joined the Bees — a member of the all-collegiate Prospect League — early in July. He joins the Bees with another Des Moines County pitcher in Cauy Massner, a Mediapolis High School graduate who will also be throwing for Iowa Wesleyan. Conner said he and his family “used to come out and have a fun time at the ballpark. In the Prospect League, it’s still fun to come out, especially to play.” He enjoyed watching the players when the Bees were an official Minor League team. “Some of them turned into Major Leaguers,” Conner said. But Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred jettisoned 43 teams from the Minor League system in 2021. It was a break for Conner. “I’ve got a better feel, being able to play in the Prospect League, that I didn’t have a chance of playing in the Minor Leagues.” Conner earned first-team all-South Division honors for the Nikes, but he tore his ACL in his right knee his senior year. He was a two-way player at Carl Sandburg but he got hurt the last two weeks of the season this year with a meniscus tear in that right knee. He can throw but he’s no longer playing on the field. “It’s smart to stick with pitching,” Conner said, and pitchers don’t bat. The main thing he likes about baseball is the competitive part of the game. “It’s a bunch of guys battling it out, some days it’s not your best and other days, you get the best of them,” Conner said. He also likes the one-on-one battles with the batters. “Pitching is one of the bigger parts of the game,” he said. “You can control the outcome of the game most of the time. You feel like the game’s in your hands.” So how does he handle the pressure? “It’s just having confidence in knowing that you give your team the best opportunity to go out and compete for the win every day,” Conner said. Although he went to camps with Massner as a youth and played against him in high school in inter-division games, Conner said he chose Iowa Wesleyan because he has friends there, and it’s close to home.” Even if he never makes the Major Leagues, he’s not leaving the sports world that he loves. “I’m majoring in business administration with a minor in sports management,” Conner said. “I want to be a part of some Minor League or Major League ball team. Sports have pretty much been my whole life. I want to stick with it. It’s something I really like.” Conner was given the same question about baseball analytics as Massner: Pro-shift or anti-shift, in which the infielders play way out of position for a left-handed better? “I could see why teams use the shift and how it can play to their advantage,” Conner said. “But I’m anti-shift. Baseball’s been played with the positions the same way for hundreds of years, and you can’t really change that,” he added. Photo by Chris Faulkner Jeron Conner, a Burlington Notre Dame graduate and college student, has been pitching this summer for the Burlington Bees.