Siblings Michael and Shaylin Cesar don’t do life half-heartedly: not in the classroom, not on the playing field.
The progeny of local sports standouts — dad Dave in baseball, and mom Nancy in volleyball — the Cesar siblings are the backbones of two teams poised for exciting state championship runs.
Michael, 18, is a senior catcher with the Juneau-Douglas High School baseball team. Shaylin, 17, is a junior goalkeeper for the JDHS soccer team. While Michael has been an offensive dynamo this season, connecting on seven hits in the first four conference games, Shaylin has been a defensive one, allowing just three goals all season. Through Saturday, Michael’s Crimson Bears are 6-2 and Shaylin’s are 8-1-1.
Dave calls his kids “quiet leaders” who have poured their lives into sports and school.
“It’s game speed for both of them during practice as well as off the field,” he said. “They’re self-driven.”
So driven that — aside from one B in math — the two have spotless transcripts, earning an almost unbroken succession of A’s from the moment they stepped into a middle school classroom.
“We knew from an early age that the work you put in is what you get out,” Michael said.
Perhaps that’s why, after picking up baseball when he was 5 years old, Michael kept at it. He would go on to play 10 seasons in the Gastineau Channel Little League. When summer ball was over, he transitioned to winter ball with the Midnight Suns Baseball Club. When he wasn’t cheering on the Seattle Mariners with his grandfather, he was following his favorite player, Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones.
Michael eagerly awaited the day little league rosters were finalized and he found out which classmates would be taking the field with him in the coming months.
“As soon as spring came around, I was just so ready for baseball, so happy,” he said. “In little league, you get your team drafted, and then all your friends you’d be playing with, you wanted to compare your teams.”
A natural leader, he gravitated toward the position that comes with a lot of responsibility: catcher. It was the same with other sports: in football, Michael played quarterback; in soccer, he tried out goalkeeping.
“Any sport I played, I wanted to jump right into the leadership spot,” Michael said.
Shaylin, always out to emulate her brother, willingly took up the goalkeeper position when she joined the Juneau Soccer Club in middle school.
“I want to be as good or be better at everything (than Michael) so watching him work hard and succeed, it definitely made me want to follow in his footsteps,” she said.
Her love of soccer blossomed when she entered high school and was named the starting keeper as a freshman. Shaylin’s teammates named her the varsity player of the year in her freshman and sophomore seasons when the team went a combined 23-8-2.
This season has been her best. In a testament to both individual and team improvement, Shaylin and the Crimson Bears have shut out their opponents in eight of 10 games this season. With 21 shutouts on her career, the junior keeper is just three away from the all-time shutout mark in program history, set in 2008 by Kayla Walton.
“I would think that she just has that mentality of whatever she’s investing her time in, she’s going to be all in and try to do the best that she can,” JDHS soccer coach Matt Dusenberry said. “And that’s going to get you places for sure.”
Michael is no stranger to team accolades himself.
He was awarded a wooden bat as a sophomore and junior as the player with the highest batting average. As a freshman and junior, he was given the team’s most prestigious award, the Heritage Bat, given to the best all-around player. Michael has been a captain since his sophomore year, winning over coach and former Major League Baseball player Chad Bentz with his professional-like approach.
“I’ve never seen a high school student-athlete work as hard and as consistent as that kid,” Bentz said. “Writing recommendation letters to coaches and schools are just so easy.”
Michael has been offered a spot on the baseball team at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, but doesn’t plan on committing to the Lutes until he finds out whether he’s accepted into Harvard University (likely next month).
While on a recent soccer trip, Nancy bought Shaylin a charm necklace with the word “fearless” inscribed on the pendant. That’s what she sees in her daughter when she takes kicks to the head, arms and legs while making a save.
“It doesn’t matter who’s coming at her or with what force it’s coming,” Nancy said. “And it’s the same with Michael, he’s got someone charging him coming in at home (plate), he’s standing his ground. I would’ve gotten him one too, but he might not have worn it.”