Background in multiple sports sparks success in baseball

Vanessa Le

Every college baseball player shares the same dream: to taste victory in the College World Series after battling at the highest level of competition.

But this isn’t a dream that every kid realizes right away. 

Growing up, some athletes are given opportunities to compete in multiple sports before they choose to focus on baseball. Long before there were any aspirations for Omaha, a young ball player develops a hunger for winning in the first sport he plays, regardless of its rules. 

“When you’re in that many different types of competition, you learn that there’s multiple ways to win in everything,” volunteer coach Phil Haig said. “Whether you could just flat out physically perform somebody, or mentally, you have to be that much tougher in that moment.” 

Haig’s athletic career precisely defines this idea of winning in multiple sports. Before he joined the Longhorns as a volunteer coach, Haig was a five-sport athlete at Henry Sibley High School in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, where he earned a total of 10 all-conference honors in baseball, tennis, football, wrestling and basketball.

But realizing the significance of a College World Series title comes with much more than having the desire to win. In baseball, there are so many strikeouts, groundouts and flyouts that a young player will deal with before he finally hits that game-winning homerun. 

A baseball player can learn more quickly about how to succeed when it matters most after he has already learned to grow from failure in multiple forms of competition.

“You’ve been through some terrible, terrible defeats,” Haig said. “You’re able to deal with failures, you’re able to deal with a lot of things so much easier when you’ve done it before.”

Redshirt sophomore catcher Michael McCann — who lettered as a quarterback at Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock — argues that the
physical and mental toughness required in baseball can actually be developed to a greater extent in football. 

“There’s things in football that you learn that baseball really doesn’t show you,” McCann said. “Aggressiveness and having that physical toughness in football really overlaps in baseball.”

Junior catcher Michael Cantu also lettered as a quarterback when he went to Moody High School. Similar to McCann, the Corpus Christi native excels at catching as a result of carrying over the leadership skills he learned as a quarterback.

“The mentality of being a quarterback — you’re sort of the quarterback of the baseball field (as a catcher),” Cantu said. “It’s having good leadership, good body language and taking blows.”

When a baseball player who has competed in multiple sports steps into the batter’s box in a big NCAA game, he isn’t just swinging a bat. Every club, stick or racket he has ever held aids in his efforts, making him ready to swing for the fences.