Jaxin Larson approaches life the same way he approaches baseball.

"You always have to be ready to go and know your job when you're called on," he said.

That attitude has served him well since learning that he's heading to Afghanistan with his Army National Guard unit this week.

"I knew that there was a good possibility I would be going," he said. "I got the phone call about three weeks ago. I was in Joey Davis' basement and they said you're going, and I said I was up for it. This is what I signed up for."

A multi-sport athlete at River Falls High School, and a stalwart on the Wildcat pitching staff before graduating in 2017, Larson enlisted in the Army National Guard last October, just two weeks before his 20th birthday. After basic training in Fort Benning, Ga., he returned to River Falls in April, just in time to begin his second season with the River Falls Fighting Fish.

"It's been a blast," he said about playing with the Fish. "I look forward to it every week and every weekend. It's awesome. I love it."

In six appearances with the Fish this season spanning 26 innings, Larson sports a record of 3-0 with a dazzling 1.43 earned run average. He made his last start on the mound last Friday, July 12, against the St. Paul Hops before leaving for Texas this week and then traveling to Kuwait on his way to Afghanistan.

"It hasn't really sunk in and I don't think it really will sink in until we get boots on the ground," he said. "But I'm ready to go. This is what I've been trained to do."

Larson said his father Troy was a big influence in his decision to enlist.

"We both love our country and we're very patriotic, and obviously I wanted to give back because I was born in the best country in the freaking world," he stated. "And they'll pay for my college, and education is very important to me."

Larson said it will be tough to leave his family and his Fighting Fish team that was atop the St. Croix Valley Baseball League standings with a record of 11-2 going into last weekend.

"It's going to be really tough to leave my family again and leave the Fish because we're having a really great season and I look forward to playing with them every summer," he said. "I'm great friends with everyone here and they're all super supportive."

He said being part of a team is the same whether it's on the baseball field or the battlefield.

"You have to support each other and be ready to do your job. And I'm ready to do mine."

He said he expects to be on the ground in Afghanistan by December and return to River Falls in time for the playoffs next season.

"I don't think I would be eligible but I'll definitely be there cheering them on," he said.