WEST HAVEN — There are plenty of good words that come to mind in describing West Haven baseball player Hunter Axelrod: smart, serious, focused, competitive, leader, scholar and genuine are just a few of them.
So, given all the qualities of this 18 year old, it’s not a stretch for Axelrod’s head coach to think very highly of him — and say so.
“He is the type of young man you would want your daughter to marry,” West Haven coach Ron Luneau said of Axelrod, who is West Haven’s valedictorian.
Axelrod serves as a co-captain for the Blue Devils. A fourth-year starter, he starts either in left field or as a pitcher.
He also was a co-captain for the school’s boys cross country team, a team that won its division in the Southern Connecticut Conference for the first time in the history of the program.
West Haven cross country coach Bill McDermott thought so highly of Axelrod that he named him co-captain — for the last three seasons.
“He is the most responsible kid I have ever had,” McDermott said. “He did everything for me. I didn’t have an assistant coach, so anything I needed done, I’d go to him. He would organize things, send a group text, he just did it all.”
Axelrod, a southpaw, said he has “used sports as a relief, a release, to decompress after a tough day of school.”
Axelrod carries a 4.9 grade point average on a 5.0 weighted scale. He is currently taking three advanced placement classes in Spanish, chemistry and calculus. He is also taking a UConn Seminar in Writing course, one that is also offered as an AP class at West Haven High, and an honors course in Biomedical Innovations.
During baseball season, Axelrod said he averages between 1-2 hours of studying a night.
“I’ve always told myself school comes first. I kept that my priority,” Axelrod said. “Learning material comes pretty easy to me, but in order to perform well on tests and exams, I do study and go above and beyond what other kids will do.”
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Axelrod said he found out in mid-March that he will be the class valedictorian. He will take his spot on the stage at graduation with speech in hand.
“I haven’t seen an athlete like him who can juggle academics and sports at such a high level,” Luneau said. “Everything he does is done like a 35-year-old man who has his priorities straight already.”
Luneau noted that fellow senior co-captain Tyler Jones and senior Brian Barrington are both top students in the program.
Axelrod also finds time to participate In student government, class council, the National Honor Society and Peer Advocates.
The SCC expanded cross country to four divisions for both boys and girls just for this past fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That allowed the opportunity for the Blue Devils to win that first division title.
“I had a lot of good friends on the team who ran year-round. To help them accomplish something so big for themselves and me, it felt good to do it with a group of guys I am close with.”
Said McDermott: “Hunter is a great leader. He does everything he is supposed to be doing. He was not a yeller. He led by example.”
Axelrod, 18, recently made his college decision: he will attend Quinnipiac University in the fall. He said he will major in neurobiology/neuroscience and minor in small business management and entrepreneurship.
He hopes to one day attend medical school.
“I am ready to kind of get away and meet new people, maybe some with similar interests to me. I want to get out there and expand my relationships,” Axelrod said.