Being good at one sport is hard enough. But being a stand out two sport athlete? That is even more rare than an unassisted triple play.
While the Everett AquaSox were in town, I had a chance to meet a former Notre Dame Quarterback who traded in the shoulder pads for the batting gloves. AquaSox 1B Evan Sharpley was a two-sport athlete at Notre Dame University as he played football and baseball for four years.
Sharpley, who is from Michigan, cites the tradition of the school and their willingness to let him play both sports as the ultimate decision that made him choose Notre Dame and not Michigan University.
“Education was high on my list and that was a big factor, but it ultimately came down to which school was going to let me play two sports,” said Sharpley. “Michigan and a couple of other schools only wanted me to play football and not baseball. Notre Dame was great because Charlie Weis and Dave Schrage were ok with me playing both sports.”
When Sharpley came into the football program in 2005, he originally had been recruited by Ty Willingham. Willingham was fired before the start of the 2005 season and Sharpley had to build a relationship with the new head coach, Charlie Weis.
“It was tough coming in because Weis had not originally recruited me; Willingham did. Through Weis’ program, I was able to learn a pro-style of offense. I learned a lot of the in’s and out’s of what it would be like to be on a pro-team and how much preparation goes into the game,” said Sharpley. “He implemented a lot of structure that I believe will pay dividends this year and next year.”
“The first two years I was at Notre Dame, I was doing a lot of both and I was spread pretty thin. I think in both sports, I was suffering as a result. Once I was able to get a good schedule down by my Junior year, I think it helped a lot,” said Sharpley.
Transitioning from football to baseball has been a smooth process for Sharpley. There are even some concepts that he has been able to take from the gridiron to the diamond.
“There are definitely aspects that relate to both sports and what has been nice is that the coaches have tried to put a lot of baseball movements into terms I’m familiar with on the football field,” said Sharpley. “I’ve incorporated the physical aspect of it, as well as the mental aspect. Playing in front of 80,000 people has prepared me for going on the road and playing in front of a lot of people.”
At the end of the Spring of 2008, Sharpley was a full-time starter for the football team and a full-time starter for the baseball team. The decision to pursue a career in baseball was due to several factors, and the itch to play football has not gone away.
“The lifestyle between the two sports is so different. If you look at the average career of a lot of NFL players, it’s not that long. I’ve always loved both sports and it was a tough decision to go with baseball as a career,” said Sharpley. “As football season is starting up this year, there is definitely the itch to want to play. I am going to miss it, but I love what I am doing now and it is the choice I made.”
Sharpley was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2009 Draft, which began his career in baseball.
“It was a great feeling to be drafted. It happened in the 50th round, but I was just excited that I was given an opportunity. Once I got drafted, I was ready to jump in and make the best of it,” said Sharpley. “I tried to learn as much as I could when I was in Arizona playing rookie ball and it was great to be in a new situation. It was good to be away from Notre Dame and in a new atmosphere with new coaches and new people.”
Sharpley had a successful career in South Bend. He went to two BCS games and evolved his baseball game to the point where he was drafted. Even though his athletic career did not live up to his expectations, Sharpley learned a lot at Notre Dame that has helped him in his quest to make it to the major leagues.
“I don’t know if there is one thing that stood out about being there. From a sports stand point, it wasn’t what I had hoped for. You dreams and aspirations of playing all the time and it never panned out that way,” said Sharpley. “When I look back, it was a great time for me and I met a lot of great people. It’s the people at Notre Dame that make it special.”
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