From Baseball to the City Beat
Two Keene State athletes are putting their baseball smarts to work on a new playing field – jobs on the Nashua police force that call for teamwork, trust, and coming through in the clutch.
Joe Rousseau '07
Ryan Jones '07
"In many ways, it's just like being on a baseball team. You get tight pretty quickly," said Jones.
"However, on a baseball field, you're playing a game. This isn't a game."
Rousseau said it's almost like starting all over. "I never shot a gun. It's like hitting a baseball for the first time," he said. "I was a little scared the first few days, but then I got used to it."
Keene State coaches Ken Howe and Marty Testo say both players have the drive and the temperament to go from Keene State red and white to Nashua blue. "They were both captains and leaders," said Howe. "They both knew when to say something and when to hold back. That says a lot about their ability to deal with people. The police force will be a perfect fit for them."
Testo agreed. "They paid attention to detail, respected authority, and were all business when it was time to go to work," he said. "It wasn't a power trip for those guys. I think they fit the bill real well. They're goal-oriented. They had a plan, and they're showing what you can do when you follow through with it."
Not only teammates but lifelong friends, Jones and Rousseau grew up together in Nashua. Bonded by their love for playing baseball, the two went on to star at Nashua High School. Jones decided around the age of 16 that he would follow in his family footsteps and apply to the force. "I grew up with it," said Jones, whose lawman lineage includes two uncles, a grandfather, and his father, Michael, a Nashua cop for 30 years who re-tired last October. Fascinated by the stories his dad told him, Jones knew the ever-changing aspect of police work would suit his personality. "It's always changing," he said. "You don't get bored."
Teammates since high school, Jones and Rousseau are now partners on the Nashua police force.
Rousseau began thinking about the force a few years ago. His father also played a role in his decision. "My dad had a store in Nashua and was friendly with the cops and respected them," Rousseau said. "He wanted to become a policeman, but never got the chance. I want to protect people and be someone in the community that others look up to." His friend Ryan approved of his decision. "I thought it was awesome when he told me he wanted to become a police officer," said Jones. "We're taking another step in our lives together."
It's no coincidence that the arrival of Jones and Rousseau marked a dramatic improvement in Keene State's baseball fortunes. With them in the lineup, the Owls qualified for postseason play every season, including the program's NCAA berths the past two years.
Both players delivered dramatic hits to help Keene State capture its inaugural Little East tournament title in 2007. Rousseau knocked in the go-ahead run in the tenth inning as the Owls held off upset-minded Western Connecticut 2-1 in a tournament opening victory. Two days later, Jones sent Owl fans into frenzy with his game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth that lifted KSC to a 1-0 victory over defending LEC champs Eastern Connecticut.
Although Keene State would come up short in NCAA play, Jones said his Owl baseball memories would last a lifetime. "I remember every baseball season like it was yesterday," he said. "I couldn't have picked a better time to be at Keene State." "It was an honor to play ball at Keene State," said Rousseau. "I can't tell you how much I've grown in the past four years."
Graduation signaled a time of change for Rousseau and Jones. Talk turned into reality as both prepared to change uniforms. The process to join the force is long, tedious, and competitive. Candidates are subjected to a series of exams, interviews, and physical tests. Rousseau said the toughest part for him was taking the polygraph test. "It's a very nerve-wracking experience," he said. "You're interrogated just like a criminal." The easiest part, hands down, was the physical test. "We're always in shape, so it was cake for us," said Jones.
In the end, just as only so many players can make the team, only a few officers can join the force. According to Rousseau, just 11 out of the original 600 applicants who took the test with them made the grade. Officers must then attend the police academy in Concord for 12 weeks. "They call the training paramilitary," said Rousseau about the regimen that begins at 5:30 in the morning. "Everything has to be neat and clean. It's a good thing they never saw my college dorm room."
From there, the recruits, who are evaluated and graded every step along the way, spend 10 weeks as field training officers and another three weeks in class. After a year serving as a special officer, candidates are finally eligible to join the police union and are qualified to serve.
While there's never a substitute for experience, both Jones and Rousseau think their youth will work toward their advantage out on the streets. "We're just out of college, so we know what's going on with young people," said Jones. However, knowing the city and many of its residents can be a two-edged sword. "You have to be very ethical about what you do," said Rousseau. "You can go out with friends, but if they are your true friends, they won't put you in a compromising situation."
"It's a change in lifestyle," added Jones. "You have to be willing to do that or it's not the job for you."
Despite their busy schedule, sports aren't out of the picture. Rousseau and Jones joined the Nashua Police Department softball team last summer. "It's more intense than I thought it would be," said Jones. "Playing the infield, guys rip the ball at you pretty good."
"Down the road, I know I'll play baseball again," said Rousseau. "I miss it. I wish I were coming back to Keene State to play this spring."
Although it won't be with a bat or a glove, Rousseau and Jones will be served well by their baseball background. After all, police work is teamwork. You have to be able to cooperate and communicate with your team and trust the person next to you. You must also be able to perform in the clutch. "I'm the type of person who wants to be up when the game is on the line," said Rousseau. "I also want to be out on the street whenever stuff happens."