Put me in, coach! I’m ready to play baseball, basketball, football

May 11, 2017 FieldsColumn

Scott County’s three-sport (baseball, basketball, football) athletes include juniors (l-r) Cooper Robb, Sam Sutton and Landon Easley. (Mike Fields photo)

BY MIKE FIELDS

Scott County junior Landon Easley loves playing baseball, but not enough to practice and play it year-round.

“I couldn’t do it. Baseball is such a mental sport that I’d have a headache all the time if I did that,” Easley said with a laugh.

Scott County junior Sam Sutton feels the same way.

“I’d hate it because I’d get so burned out on it,” he said. “If I had to play any sport the year round, I’d get sick of it and not way to play it anymore.”

Concentrating on one sport may be trending in high schools across the nation, but not at Scott County.

Easley and Sutton are among several Cardinal baseball players who consider specialization a dirty word.

They play football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring.

“I just feel like playing all three sports in high school is something pretty rare and pretty awesome,” Sutton said.

“Ever since I was 5, I’ve played all three,” Scott County junior Cooper Robb said. “It’s just kind of natural now.”

Cards baseball coach Scott Willard is proud that his roster is stocked with multi-sport athletes.

Besides Easley, Sutton and Robb, freshmen Philip Garner and Cade McKee also do the triple play (baseball, basketball and football). Brice Fryman played all three as a freshman and sophomore, and after stepping away from hoops this past season, he plans on returning to the court his senior year.

Willard thinks playing multiple sports provides physical and mental benefits.

Cooper Robb started at point guard for Scott County’s Sweet 16 quarterfinal team.

“You don’t get those repetitive-type injuries, where a guy is just constantly throwing or constantly lifting or constantly jumping, running and shooting,” he said. “Well-rounded athletes who play different sports use different muscle groups.

“And it keeps them mentally fresh, too.”

Willard said Scott County football coach Jim McKee and basketball coach Billy Hicks share his philosophy, and are happy to share their athletes.

“There’s great cooperation among us,” Willard said. “Coach Hicks and Coach McKee aren’t mandating that kids be in open gym or spring football. They promote guys doing different things.

“The big thing is, we don’t punish kids for playing other sports.”

Robb, who starts at safety in football, point guard in basketball and second base in baseball, tries to keep from getting rusty by finding time to practice his jump shot during football season, and getting in a few swings during basketball season.

That can be problematic, though.

Willard remembers that in early March, when the basketball team had an off day before the 11th Region tournament, Robb sought him out and asked if he could field some grounders, and take a few swings.

“I told him that I wasn’t going to let him take ground balls because if he got mashed in the nose I’d get fired,” Willard said with a laugh. “I told him he could take a few swings. But then when I was throwing to him, the first ball he hit was a foul ball right down on the top of his foot.

“I told him right then to get out.”

Robb said the different sports require some similar skills, so it’s a win-win-win situation.

“Backpedaling at safety in football kind of translates to basketball and transition defense,’ he said. “Quickness and lateral movement in basketball translates to quickness on the baseball field and having to move side to side to get to the ball.”

Easley, who plays tight end in football, center/forward in basketball, and first base/outfield/pitcher in baseball, finds the adjustment from basketball to baseball the most difficult.

“Baseball is definitely the hardest to transition to because it’s such a mental sport,” he said. “Getting your swing back the way you want it, and getting your eye used to live pitching. Playing all three sports, I personally think hitting a baseball is the toughest thing to do.”

Sutton agreed.

“Baseball is 90% mental,” he said. “And if you come in late, like we do from basketball, and get thrown into it, it can be pretty tough.”

But it doesn’t take good athletes much time to get back in the groove. 

“That’s why (the coaches) don’t hold it against you if you come in late and you’re kind of behind on everything,” Robb said.

Easley has heard some college coaches say that kids should focus on one sport in high school.

“I don’t believe that,” he said. “A lot of people told me I’d have to at least narrow it down to two in high school, but all that did was drive me even more to play all three.”

And consider all the winning these multi-sport guys have done at Scott County just this school year. The football Cards went 11-3 and made it to the state semifinals. The basketball Cards went 31-6 and reached the Sweet 16 quarterfinals. And the baseball Cards are 25-4 and look like a region contender.

No wonder then that when Easley was asked what sport he likes best, he didn’t hesitate: “Whatever I’m playing.”

Scott County’s multi-sport players also include, l-r, Brice Fryman, Cade McKee and Philip Garner. (Mike Fields photo)

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