Jesse Trader, the 19-year-old firefighter who was killed driving a water truck Tuesday was a three-year varsity baseball player at West Albany High School and a key player on the 2012 team that reached the State 5A state playoffs before falling in the first round to Sherwood.
Luke Rappé, a 2013 Lebanon High School graduate, played against Trader starting in Little League and continued until they each suited up for their respective varsity programs.
They then played together in 2012 with the Mid-Valley Rockets American Legion squad.
"I got to know Jesse pretty well last summer," Rappé said. "I knew him well enough to know that he was a really good guy and he played baseball the right way, always hustling hard. I could tell he was a family man, and he talked about his family a lot and he loved to go camping with them. Family was a big deal to him, and so was baseball."
Rappé said Trader, who graduated from West Albany in 2012, was a good teammate.
"He was always encouraging in the dugout and was someone that would be there for you, no matter what. He was a tough player who worked hard. A blue-collar guy.
"It's just so tragic."
Rockets head coach Troy Babbitt said the staff enjoyed having Trader on the team.
"Jesse's bottom line was he was a competitor, he loved the game. It was a good summer for him," Babbitt said. "He played the game hard. That was his approach to the game."
Sawyer Reid, a 2013 West Albany grad, started playing baseball with Trader in Little League. The two became off-the-field friends in middle school, and played high school and American Legion baseball together.
Reid said Trader was a player that underclassmen often looked up to.
"He was always the leader of our teams, always the guy in the huddle who would talk and say things to us, and someone that as an underclassman I definitely looked up to, and I know a lot of the other guys did too," Reid said.
In high school, Reid and Trader would regularly get together and have friendly competitions in activities such as fishing and ping pong.
"We were both big competitors, and that is kind of how we got to know each other," Reid said. "Everything we did, it was never that seriously competitive; we were always joking around. He was a fun guy to hang out with."