[This is my column in the March 6 issue of The Commercial Review.]
Some people in the Jay County community know the man behind the name Jason Hart.
And when asked who exactly Jason Hart is, even he had to find the right answer to the question.
“Probably what I have in my Twitter profile,” he said.
But even then, he had a hard time recalling how he describes himself to his nearly 400 followers.
“Husband, father of three, Roman Catholic Church Organist. Music Teacher,” it reads, among other things. He was limited to 160 characters.
Hart, who wears glasses and is short in stature, teaches music and is the technology director at St. Lawrence Catholic School in Muncie.
A 2000 graduate of Jay County High School, Hart lives in Muncie with his wife Maria and their three children — Lucia, 9, Elijah, 5, and 4-month-old Anna.
Despite the fact he resides in Delaware County, he is still very much involved with the Marching Patriots.
The former tuba player and drum major still spends his summer months helping with the Patriot marching band. He does photo and video work for the squad, and recently he has added handling social media to his duties.
Hart is more than just music, though.
“He’s probably more of a staple than me,” JCHS boys basketball coach Craig Teagle said when gauging Hart’s worth to the program. “He’s a Patriot through and through. He is a part of our staff.
“It’s funny, when we’re apart for those eight months it seems like (we’re asking), ‘Where’s Jason?’”
Hart began his managing “career” in middle school, when he assisted for the Chiefs while attending East Jay.
As Teagle’s Jay County coaching career began during the 1998-99 season — Hart’s junior year — he reprised that role.
“I used to call him ‘Radar O’Reilly’ from M*A*S*H*,” Teagle said. “I would say something and he’d say ‘Coach I already did it,’ or ‘Coach, I got ya.’
“Before I would even say it, he would get the job done. He’s unbelievable.”
Since then, Hart’s role with the team has changed.
The fall after he graduated, he filled in on a part-time basis as the scorekeeper for Teagle’s Patriots while attending Ball State. The following year, he took it over full time, and he’s been in the position ever since.
I met Jason before the 2013-14 season opener, and I was immediately blown away.
This guy knows his stuff.
And on top of all, he’s a tremendous person.
Most importantly, he’s been extremely helpful.
When I was struggling to cover a basketball game — shoot photos, take stats and do a play-by-play — during my first season in Jay County, Hart helped me clear up any issues.
Whether I missed a free throw here and there or wrote down a two-point field goal rather than a 3-pointer, he never had a problem helping me get my stats straightened out.
Even if he took a few jabs here and there.
“You know, Ray never missed anything,” was a common statement I would hear as I approached the scorer’s table during a break in the action to correct any errors I had.
Those snide remarks, which lacked any serious undertones, were just another fun part of my job.
And throwing stats back and forth with him has also been enjoyable.
For instance, he loved the fact that at halftime of a game earlier this season, the Patriots were an even 66.7 percent in all shooting aspects —total field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws.
His nuggets of knowledge about the Jay County basketball team have boiled over into the team’s Facebook page, with which he creates trivia questions for its followers.
What was the most points Jay County has ever scored in a game? Name the schools the Patriots have played more than 40 times. South Adams was the opponent the first time the hoops team took the court during its inaugural season.
Those tidbits of trivia are things Hart thrives on.
I had mentioned to him Thursday that the 32.2 points per game the Patriots are allowing this season are the lowest in the Teagle era. Then he threw it back at me that this is the best defensive team in program history, surpassing the 35-point mark set by the 2011-12 team.
Hart said one of the best things about being around the program for so long is getting to see kids grow and come up through the system. One in particular is Teagle’s son Trey, who was just a toddler when Hart began in the late-1990s.
Our friendship goes beyond the basketball court, however.
This past summer while the Marching Patriots were preparing for the Indiana State Fair, Hart was taking photos of their preview performance at Harold E. Schutz Stadium. He was going to shoot photos of the show at the fair so he was getting some practice. I was there as well, taking pictures for the newspaper, and as our paths crossed that night he asked me some questions about photography.
Finally, I had my chance to pay back all the help he had given — and would continue to give — during basketball season.
Anytime I can give back to those who had helped me in the past I won’t pass up the opportunity. Plus, whenever I am able to share my experiences, knowledge and love of photography, I’m more than willing to do so.
Jason is one of the friendliest people I have met during my time in Jay County. I’ve always said it’s the athletes I cover that make my job the most enjoyable. But that is rapidly extending to those off the courts and fields of play as well.
And the dedication to his alma mater that he continues to show screams volumes of how much he loves Jay County.
He truly is a Patriot at Hart.