Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Brian Jordan, and ... Ryne Robinson?
What Jackson, Sanders, and Jordan did with prominence at the professional level - play football and baseball - the Miami University freshman from Toledo is trying in college.
Fresh off a productive freshman football season for the Mid-American Conference champion RedHawks, the 2003 Central Catholic graduate and former three-sport Irish star is trying to make his mark on the Miami baseball team.
An outfielder, the speedy 5-10, 175-pound Robinson has played in 24 of the RedHawks 31 baseball games (18 starts), and is hitting a respectable .298 (17-for-57) and is 8-for-8 on stolen bases.
Although football is his scholarship sport, Robinson says he always planned to try to play baseball too, provided the schedule conflicts with spring football practice were reasonable and that his football development wasn t hindered.
Last fall, Robinson returned 38 punts for an impressive 17.2-yard average, running three kicks back for touchdowns. As a receiver he caught 28 passes for 468 yards and two TDs, including a 53-yarder at Bowling Green in the MAC championship game.
As a senior at Central he earned first-team All-Ohio football honors after catching 62 passes for 1,035 yards, rushing for 208 and scoring 18 TDs. He also had five interceptions and made 53 tackles at defensive back and was the City League s player of the year.
In basketball he averaged 9.7 points per game as a guard, helping the Irish to a 19-4 season.
In baseball he batted .333 and stole 17 bases en route to CL co-player of the year honors and a spot in the prestigious Mizuno All-Ohio baseball series. There he ran a time of 6.36 seconds in the 60-yard dash, the second fastest out of the 80 prep players at the series. At football camps during high school, he was timed as low as 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
That speed is the reason Miami baseball coach Tracy Smith has approved an experiment to have Robinson, an outfielder, switch-hit for the RedHawks.
A natural right-handed thrower and batter, Robinson has been standing in left-handed against right-handed pitchers in batting practice since early in the season. His routine in the cage now has him using about 60 percent of his swings left-handed.
“The hardest part is that you re seeing the ball at a different angle, and you re also not as strong from the other side. As far as hitting the ball, it s basically just a matter of hand-eye coordination.”
The plan is for Robinson to simply put the ball in play on the ground, then turn on the jets. It is a learning process - nine of Robinson s 14 strikeouts have come from the left side.
“I m definitely getting better at it. I ve gotten about 25 percent of my hits that way [infield singles]. This makes me a more versatile player, a threat from both sides of the plate.”
Versatility has enabled Robinson to tackle an even bigger challenge - negotiating classwork, baseball practice, and games, and spring football practice, often all in the same days in recent weeks.
Spring football began on March 23; it concludes with the spring game tomorrow at 1 p.m., and then a kicking-game practice on Tuesday.
After Miami s 49-28 GMAC Bowl win over Louisville on Dec. 18, Robinson had some time to take a breather back home on Christmas break.
He began baseball practice on Jan. 12 and, over the last 25 days, depending on the day, has been doing double and sometimes triple duty with his classwork and the two sports.
The grueling regimen leaves him exhausted about three out of every five weekdays. But, to him, it is a price worth paying.
“It s definitely worth it. I m getting a free education and a shot at being a professional athlete in one of the two sports.”
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com or 419-724-6461.
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