Should You Play Multiple Sports or Only Baseball?

“If I’m serious about playing college baseball, should I quit the other sport(s) I play in order to focus on baseball year round?”

I was speaking to a team with their parents and coaches, and a player asked me this exact question.  Without hesitation I started going into all my reasoning for encouraging those players to play multiple sports and how NOT playing baseball year-round can actually make you more attractive to college coaches. When I got done the room was awkwardly silent. I noticed some of the players sneaking peeks at the head coach in the corner. Finally, I said, “What?”

Well, evidently the day before, the summer ball coach gave the team a big speech about the importance of playing baseball year-round and not “wasting time” on other sports. Whoops!! I politely said that I disagree with him based on my conversations with college baseball coaches around the country. One of which answered this same question in the video below.

So here is the logic behind most college baseball coaches’ desire for high school prospects to play multiple sports – they must be athletic!!!  When I talk to top college coaches around the country about what they look for while recruiting, almost everyone says they are looking for ATHLETES.  You know what happens when you play multiple sports?  You become a better athlete.  You movement is more fluid.  I’m not saying to force yourself to play other sports if you don’t enjoy them. I am suggesting that you don’t quit a sport you enjoy so that you can get a few extra swings in a watered-down fall baseball league.

I’ve had seniors who start on their football or basketball teams ask me if they should quit their senior year to concentrate on baseball.  My answer is “no”, and clearly University of Cincinnati Bearcat’s baseball coach JD Heilmann agrees.

Is it possible to play too much baseball? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that playing other sports translates to being a better athlete, and being a better athlete translates to being a better baseball player.

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28 Responses to Should You Play Multiple Sports or Only Baseball?

  1. Rick Finley says:

    David,
    I talk about this issue everyday to people,and kids. Play as many sports and have fun. Don’t matter if it’s intramural, or your not a starter have fun. JD Heilman and Coach Cleary recruited my son Ricky out of high school and college (Juco/ Wabash Valley). Both of my kids were 1st Team All-Ohio Athletes (Rashad Finley/Rugby & Ricky Finley/Baseball). They tried just about every sport and ran track. My youngest son in 2008 tried out as a freshman (never played select baseball) made the team at Lakota West and started in Left Field.I allowed them to try different sports and have fun. I also was responsible for their strength & speed training. They NEVER had to pay for instruction in nothing. But in todays society, people pay for speed, hitting lessons, pitching lessons and evrything else. Thats why select baseball is in Cincinnati is “watered-down”. Patience is the key to all training. You can’t buy speed at the store, and think it’s going to work right away. Genetics/DNA plays a part also. Hard work is also the key, and kids grow differently mentally and physically. Also that’s why you have some many baseball showcase camps. These guys know that parents are trying to buy that scholarship. They come out spending thousands of dollars and the kid gets cut from the high school team, or just isn’t good enough for college ball. I grew up where, all the guys in the neighborhood played different sports….even if you was not good, you played. MENTAL TOUGHNESS and SWAGGER!!!

    Growing up I can tell you the best athletes in our neighborhood and surrounding ‘hoods’: Darryl Boston ( played FB,BB and baseball) Tuffy Rhodes (Baseball and Basketball)…Tuffy was a beast! Drew Denson (Baseball & Basketball) 1984 #1 draft pick of Atlanta Braves) David Justice (Basketball & Baseball) Dante Johnson (FB & Baseball) Drafted by Reds/ Lil brother is Taver Johnson (former FB coach at Arkansas), Leon Wright (drafted by Atlanta/ played baseball & basketball). There is many more that baseball players in our area that played multiple sports, also were drafted in baseball.

    I trained my kids just like we played and trained as kids. Nothing has changed! Thats why I can still run sprints and train kids… also I had “open-heart surgery” when I was 10. Currently, I’m 48 and still in good shape.

    I like NextLevelBallPlayer because, this is how baseball is suppose to be!
    The essence and purity in baseball, is about hard-work, and in some cases “LUCK”. It’s a joy talking with someone that has so much passion and knowledge at such a young age. I truly respect that!

    Thank You for your blog, and its linked to my MD&I Baseball Academy/Facebook page. I’m waiting for a friend request!

    - Rick Finley

  2. Jay says:

    Well here is another take on the multiple sport vs one sport or better yet your favorite sport. I have seen this happen to two athletes with huge potential to play college Baseball. First player 5’10″ 180, was a star running back during a sweep rt he was tackled by two players that weight at least 75 – 100 lbs more than him, he was taken off the field on a stretcher with a fractured femur through the mid shaft and the head of the femur broken off. Needless to say he will never walk or run the same again. His parents were on the sidelines in tears with mom yelling at dad because she did not want him to play football, but dad had a bigger ego!
    Second player was a power forward 6′ 1″ 185 he also liked to play every sport available during middle school and when he got to HS he just played Baseball & Basketball. During two separate basketball games the athlete landed wrong and another players foot during a routine rebound he completely tore his right ACL and MCL and partially tore his PCL with a dislocated patella. Came back a year later (Sophomore) mind you No baseball freshman year and fractured his ankle on the same leg which aggravated the knee. He is now done with sports.

    After I witness these 2 freak accidents I have decide to simply allow my son to play what he really enjoys, Baseball when he gets to HS. Is he an athlete yes, he runs track (100m) and does the high jump, played basketball (point guard) and a SS for his travel baseball team. He is in middle school and has decided to stick with baseball in HS. Are these freak accidents? Yes, but they also make you think that if you have a son or daughter for that matter that have above average potential for baseball or softball or any sport for that matter, I believe you should stick to it.
    Like the Saying goes:
    Jack of all trades and a master of none!
    That would be really closed minded for a program to overlook an athlete simply because they chose not to play multiple sports!

    Jay

    • Ted Browne says:

      @ Jay

      As a college recruiting coach, I can tell you that the author is spot-on. Please understand that we don’t overlook athletes that play single sports. But if the performance of two high school athletes are similar, we’ll recruit the one with a multiple sport high school background more vigorously simply because we see better upside.

      Further, most baseball colleges also pursue JuCo athletes over high school athletes (check the rosters of scholarship school baseball programs and note the number of transfers on each team). The scholarship money goes to impact players, and generally-speaking, a player at 18 has more risk and less strength, emotional intelligence, and quickness than the same player at age 21.

      • Franco says:

        What Ted is saying is what I’ve heard repeatedly from college coaches around the country. Of course coaches wont ignore a ballplayer who only plays baseball, but the point is that playing multiple sports is one of many factors that coaches look at in a positive manner.

  3. Ted Browne says:

    Nicely written, dude! I’ve referenced your blog and article at Beyond Athletic Life Lessons (www.gotoball.org) and promoted it on Facebook.

    Ted Browne
    Chief Storyteller
    Beyond Athletic Life Lessons
    Baseball Coach/Professor of Economics
    Vanguard University of Southern California

  4. Hec... says:

    Okay I see two different points of view. Thus my question, would a athlete be considered if they play Baseball for HS and practice a Martial Art such as Karate or Jiu Jitsu?
    I ask because I believe that learning a Martial Art takes just as much discipline or more than a team sport.

    Some feedback would be appreciated.

    Hec…

  5. Gary Kral says:

    FINALLY!!!! I get so sick and tired of hearing about high school and summer coaches that want kids to focus on just one single sport. If you are a good athlete you will be found and you will get to play a sport in college. Focusing on one sport only hones the primary skills for that sport. Playing a second or third sport hones other skills that can also improve your game in that sport. For instance, I played soccer, baseball and football growing up. I always had the best feet of the football and baseball players because of soccer. That advantage allowed me to be an even better varsity baseball (SS) and football player (safety/WR/kicker).

    As far as the injury concern goes, I have seen many injuries in many sports. Baseball is not immune to injuries. Arms fall apart. Heads get beaned. Injuries may be more serious in football, but the other sports don’t seem to be anymore susceptible to injury than baseball.

    Either way, keep playing all the sports you want. Bubba Starling did and it didn’t seem to hurt his baseball draft status all that much.

    In my opinion, the time to focus on one sport is college. Only the freaks of freaks can compete on the elite level in multiple sports (i.e. Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Dave Winfield)

    Gary Kral

    • Todd says:

      Gary- Most teenagers aren’t Bubba Starling.

      And couldn’t you have just worked on your footwork taking groundballs instead of wasting your time playing soccer?

      • Gary Kral says:

        I wouldn’t say I wasted my time playing soccer. I ended up kicking in the AFL for 6 years. However, in high school I was the starting SS for my baseball team that finished 3rd in state and I had offers to play college baseball. I was also an all-conference FS in football and had offers to play FS as well as kicker in college. I attribute a large part of my success in sports to my quick and skilled feet. Those skills were certainly better because of playing soccer. Yes, I could have just worked on foot skills as part of football and baseball practices, but it wouldn’t have been as much fun. I also don’t think it would have been as effective. I could make my feet do what I wanted not because I trained them to do it, but because I knew how to use them.

        I also want to add that I am not opposed to someone focusing on one sport exclusively. If you love it and that is what you want to do, then by all means do that. What I don’t agree with is telling a kid who loves multiple sports that he needs to focus on one sport at the age of 13.

  6. John says:

    Hello Next Level Baseball,

    I think you and the teams coach are both right and wrong. If the kids are not yet in high school and or just freshman/sophomore then they should pursue other sports especially why not in high school. However, if the kid is set on playing baseball and may miss out on some extra development to pursue his dreams of playing college/professional baseball then he should make the sacrifice if it seems necessary. Some athletes can do several sports and be a star in all of them especially at smaller HS. But then they realize they are not good enough in one to play college in any sport. If the HS is competitive then they may have to make sacrifices just to keep there edge to just make the HS baseball team. Especially in a specific skill like baseball. I have three examples of this from my sons playing days in HS all a little bit different examples. So if you want me to explain in more detail let me know.

    As far as the coaches go they say it looks good if you played other sports. But come on that just sounds good. Bottom line coaches want to win especially at the college level. If you can throw 90 plus or drop bombs they don’t care whether you played another HS sport or not. Let’s be honest after what you can do on the baseball field they look at your grades and character not that the player can play basketball. So if you have two kids one that throws 90 and one that throws 85-87 on good day but was a all district football player so what. If they both have great grades who you offering the scholarship to?

  7. LTS says:

    Interesting how different the thought process is on this question. Having played multiple sports, 20+ seasons coaching, and having 3 children I can say without trying to misleed anyone. The physical and mental strains on our children or top prospects is quite different from say 30-40 years ago. The amount of academic requirements, the additional weight lifting, conditioning, training lessons and camps is far more time consuming than ever. I am a supporter of participating in more than one sport, but I feel strongly that there needs to be a break in there some where. Taking a few months off from one sport season is a good thing. I.E. Taking basketball off but playing baseball and football, or playing basketball and baseball etc. will allow the student athlete to heal any ailments and let his mind cool down a bit.
    In the off season they can spend a little extra time on homework, weightlifting, and the batting cage. But it needs to be their decision too! Their athletic abilities will improve with the training but more importantly they will be looking forward to the new season after a break from the rigors of organized sports.

  8. Matt says:

    Multiple. My son plays hockey, baseball, football, and basketball. All contribute to overall athletic skill and athleticism. The important thing is not to do to much or burn them out. It will shake out in the end.

  9. Anthony says:

    My son is 10 and excels in Football, Basketball and still plays travel ball between those two sports. We get a lot of bad feed back from family, friends, coaches cause he does multiple sports at one time. The day he says he cant do two sports at once then we will stop.

  10. Phil R. says:

    Awesome stuff, Franco! Definitely something that needs to be addressed, and couldn’t agree more. And this is coming from a guy who works as pitching instructor!

    I see way too many kids turning away from playing multiple sports too young, and often try to steer parents away from having their sons work with me at the expense of playing other sports. Kids need to develop as athletes first before before concentrating on one sport or specific skill.

    Anecdotally, almost every teammate I ever had in college and the pros played more than one sport in high school.

    Good stuff, keep it up!

  11. We are firm believers in this!

  12. Todd says:

    I completely disagree with this article. The only way a player is going to get better at baseball, is by playing baseball! If you want to play college baseball you should focus all your attention on practicing baseball as much as possible. End of story.

  13. Jay says:

    Good comments and I love the feedback. Now read this article that Franco has on the site about the DR kids. Which have a pretty good advantage with all the MLB camps to groom them like puppies.
    Tell me that they play more than one sport… I think Not!

    http://www.nextlevelballplayer.com/winning-ballplayer/what-can-we-learn-from-dominican-ballplayers/

    Jay

    • Franco says:

      Very interesting point Jay. After living in the Dominican Republic for a year, I feel that I have a pretty good understanding of their baseball culture… and you’re right, they don’t play any organized sports other than baseball.

      With that being said, they grow up playing stick ball and other little games that really build their hand eye coordination and athletic ability without them really knowing. They just love to play and a lot of times have nothing else to do. That is very different than the average American kids growing up only playing baseball along with all the distractions of video games, TV, ext.

      • Jay says:

        Yes I understand, My dad is from DR. I was born & grew up in Puerto Rico and came to the States at the age of 10 and all we did after school was play stickball, punchball, against the wall baseball etc.. This was back in the 70′s.

        Thanks for the article,
        Jay

  14. Jay says:

    Look at this site:

    http://www.dominicanbaseballcamp.com/

    All these college coaches looking for recruits..
    They are not looking for Johnny or little Jimmy.
    They like Alberto, Alfonso, Juan, Jose, Etc..

    Open 2013 H.S. Camp Dates/College Guest Coaches

    2013 Summer Schedule – High School Baseball Camp
    Session # Ages Dates Trip Name
    1 H.S. July 12-18 Eddie Smith-Notre Dame
    2 H.S. July 12-18 Dan Simonds-Miami of Ohio
    3 H.S. July 24-30 Jake Boss-Michigan State
    4 H.S. July 24-30 Dan Hartleb-University of Illinois
    5 H.S. August 4-10 Matt Kirby-University of Virginia
    6 H.S. August 4-10 TBD

    Jay

    • Franco says:

      Jay, let me just address this comment first about the list of college coaches going to the Dominican this summer. They ARE NOT going there to recruit. This is a week long baseball camp where these coaches coach a team of American HS players for the week. I’ve worked multiple of these in the past.

      The biggest reason why they can’t recruit Dominican players is because of the poor education system in the DR and the fact that most ballplayers drop out around 15 years old. It’s a shame that there isn’t a better structure set up to enable those kids the opportunity to get an education with their talent.

  15. Troy says:

    I agree with you 100%. Yes it makes you a better athlete but the overuse injury rate is so much higher with a kid that is playing baseball all year long. Wait, if your hurt you can’t play baseball all year long. Hmmmm

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