It’s funny how baseball jersey numbers can mean much more than a fan can see. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox wears No. 2 to represent his favorite player Derek Jeter and right fielder Jason Heyward of the Chicago Cubs wears No. 22 to honor a former high school teammate who passed away. When JMU outfielder Adam Sisk trots out in his No. 20 jersey, he does so to honor his father Kevin Sisk, who once played for the Dukes.
Kevin played baseball at JMU from 1990-91 after transferring from a junior college. He was one of the Dukes’ best players during those seasons playing shortstop, which led him to be drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 39th round of the 1991 amateur draft. Kevin spent just one season in Minor League Baseball before hanging up his cleats, but his love for baseball never dissipated — a love he instilled in his son.
Growing up, Kevin noticed Adam’s passion for baseball early. From the first time Kevin put a plastic bat in Adam’s hands, Adam was hooked. He would spend hours in their backyard hitting wiffle balls and playing with his neighborhood friends.
“He introduced me to the game when I was really young and I fell in love with it,” Adam said. “It was partly because of how awesome this game is, and partly because he was my dad and my hero, so I wanted to be like him and do everything he did.”
One particular memory that stood out to Kevin that truly showed him Adam’s commitment to the game came when Adam was 11 years old. At the time, Kevin was Adam’s little league head coach, and after a kickball accident at school, Adam injured his hip. They had a game later that day against one of the best teams in the league, and although Adam couldn’t run, he convinced his father he could still hit. Sure enough, in Adam’s first at-bat, he hit a screamer off the fence and hobbled to first base while his dad stared in amazement.
“He just stuck his bat out there and it was very Kurt Gibson-like,” Kevin said. “I just thought to myself, ‘Good gosh, I don’t even know what to say.’”
When it came time to pick a college, Kevin made sure Adam knew it was his decision on where he wanted to go. However, when Adam got the call saying JMU wanted him to play ball for them, he had no other choice.
“He always told me to go where I wanted to go and not to go here just because he did,” Adam said. “I made my decision to come here because I love this school. It’s given me every opportunity to be successful, and of course it’s cool to come here and play baseball just like my dad did and wear his number.”
The Sisk boys aren’t the only ones to rep purple and gold. Adam’s mother Colleen also attended JMU in the early ’90s, where she met her future husband Kevin. Adam’s sister Emma is the newest Duke in the family, currently wrapping up her freshman year. JMU blood runs deep in the family.
JMU Director of Broadcast Services Curt Dudley has worked with the entire Sisk family during his 20-year career with the Dukes. Dudley believes their impact has gone beyond baseball.
“The Sisk family has been a good family,” Dudley said. “Emma and Adam have always been very respectful to me, and I’m sure that Kevin and Colleen wouldn’t have it any other way. They enjoy the game of baseball, but they also understand how to continue to form relationships outside of the game.”
Adam has built his own legacy at JMU over his illustrious college career. He’s currently hitting .303 at the plate this season, leads the team in runs (28) and is tied for first in RBIs (27). Adam owns a career .290/.398/.477 slash line with 21 home runs, 94 RBIs and 121 runs scored. He hit a career-high .337 in his junior year, which led him to winning Second Team All-CAA honors in 2017.
At 21-20 ( 6-9 CAA), the Dukes have had an up-and-down season. However, Adam has been as steady as ever, providing leadership and firepower at the top half of the JMU lineup. As for Kevin, there’s nothing better than cheering on his son at every Dukes home game.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Kevin said. “One, he’s a great son and just a great young man, and from a baseball standpoint I’ve seen him grow tremendously. I think the current coaching staff have shown him how to be a leader and I think that Adam has taken that to the next level.”
Contact Connor McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more baseball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter at @TheBreezeSports.