Athlete Spotlight: Mount Greylock's Jacob Fink
It was almost two calendar years ago that Mount Greylock's Jacob Fink beat Belchertown's Jonathan Vinagre to help the Mounties clinch the Western Massachusetts Division III championship. Fink, a cross country runner in the fall, ran track last year. But now he's back as the No. 1 singles player for a revitalized Greylock boys tennis squad. He was 10th in the Western Mass. Division II cross country meet as Greylock won the title. In this week's Athlete Spotlight, Fink talks about when he first picked up a tennis racquet, what he thinks of the new Mount Greylock High School building, his college plans, and some famous people he's had social media conversations with.
THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE: What sport did you play first in your life?
FINK: Baseball. Rookie League Cal Ripken. I think I was only, I believe I was around four or five — kindergarten. I believe my parents got a call the night before and then signed me up. That's what happened. That was my first sport.
EAGLE: Did you like baseball?
FINK: Yeah, I really liked it. I wanted to be a catcher, so I got some experience at it. I played baseball from kindergarten through sixth grade. I never was a great hitter, but I became an all-right fielder at second base and a little bit at catcher.
EAGLE: So, when did you first pick up a tennis racquet?
FINK: Without really trying, around seven or eight, very briefly. Age nine is when I had my first lesson. I took lessons for one summer with a Harvard club tennis player [on Cape Cod]. I think once I was having those lessons, I got really, really into it. I think there was some drop off over the next couple of years. But I was really captured by it.
EAGLE: When did you decide that tennis was going to be your sport?
FINK: When I got into seventh grade. I was probably 12 or 13 in seventh grade, it wasn't a decision for me at all. Probably around fifth grade or so, I decided tennis was what I was into. I had always dreamed of being a professional for many, many years. People say what are you going to do or what's your dream job, that's what I would say. I was set on that.
EAGLE: What do you like about tennis?
FINK: You're out there, at least in singles, which is almost exclusively what I play. You're out there by yourself and there's very, very minimal coaching, so it's really you. It's just you against one other person. You don't have to rely on anyone else. There are a lot things I like about team sports, but there was something about the fear but also the excitement and fun of being out there by yourself.
EAGLE: When did a light bulb go on when Jacob Fink thought 'I can really do this?'
FINK: It's funny. I think it was before high school. I think it was around sixth or seventh grade. That's when I was really the most determined and I'll prove everyone wrong. I'm going to win the U.S. Open or whatever. That's just what I was set on. I don't know if there was one light bulb moment. It was more as time went on that this was what I loved to do.
EAGLE: You're a captain this year. What's it like to be on a team that has come back?
FINK: It's definitely interesting, because there are a couple of people on the team right now who [played] last year when I didn't, and I really admire them for doing it with just — I believe — four people on the team last year. It's a big change because Gabe Gerry came back with me. There's a lot that I can teach, but there's a lot I can learn because in cross-country, I was co-captains with several other people. A couple of them were better runners than I was. This is such a small team that I'm kind of learning as we go along. I'm just trying to [see] how I can help other people get better and help them enjoy themselves, and help set the stage for the future of the tennis team.
EAGLE: How is the season going?
FINK: We started with two matches with Mount Anthony, and then we won against Mount Everett, our first team win. Then we lost to Pittsfield, 3-2 the other day.
EAGLE: You also do cross-country. When did you start running?
FINK: I guess I actually started running in sixth grade. I did the little kid track program that [Mount Greylock coach Brian Gill] runs, a wonderful program, in the spring. I did pretty well there. [Greylock graduate] Carter Stripp was one of main people who said 'You have to run cross country in the fall.' He came to my lemonade stand in the summer before seventh grade and said 'I'll buy lemonade from you if you run cross-country in the fall.' It was like, all right, let's do it. That was how I was recruited to the running team.
EAGLE: So you had a lemonade stand when you were in the sixth grade? Did you make money?
EAGLE: So, how's the new school?
FINK: The new school is great. I think we're excited. It's a massive, massive upgrade. It's fun to be in.
EAGLE: What was it like to walk in there the first day?
FINK: I had not taken a tour, like a lot of my other friends had. It took me back. The old school, not that it wasn't nice, but there were things that could be improved. They tackled all of those improvements. It's really wonderful. I'm trying not to take it for granted, because I was in the other building for five years. It feels normal now.
EAGLE: What is your favorite class and your favorite teacher?
FINK: This year, there are two teachers that I really feel I trust a lot and can enjoy having extended conversations with — Coach Blair Dils and Coach [Bob] Thistle. I would say I prefer Math to English, and Mr. Thistle is my BC Calculus teacher. He's genuinely a wonderful person, and he's helped me. BC Calculus, after pre-calc, it's definitely the most difficult math class I've ever taken. It's a big step up. He's done a great job teaching it.
EAGLE: You're going to Williams next year (Early Decision). Was it always your first choice?
FINK: I visited several other schools with a very open mind, but I think I would say my heart was always with Williams. That's not to say I didn't consider other schools. I'm really, really excited to be going.
EAGLE: Are you going to be on a team?
FINK: There's a solid chance I'm going to run cross-country in the fall. We'll see where it goes from there. It's only recruits on the tennis team, so I'm not going to be able to do that. My plan is to be on the club team.
EAGLE: Your social media game is pretty good. Other than local sportswriters, who are some of the more famous people you have had Twitter interactions with?
FINK: I like Twitter. There's not that many people I interact with that I don't know. Brad Gilbert, the former world No. 4 tennis player, and an ESPN analyst Chris Fowler, who announces the national championship for college football [on ESPN], also Boris Becker.
EAGLE: When Boris Becker responds, what do you think?
FINK: I think I said something complimentary, and he said thank you. It wasn't a long conversation. Brad Gilbert and I have had some solid interactions.
This interview was conducted, edited and condensed by Howard Herman
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.