Tournaments | Story | 7/1/2019

Lonergan, Jackets are buzzing

Jack Nelson        
Photo: Dylan Lonergan (Perfect Game)

HOOVER, Ala. – Kyler Murray made history this April as the first athlete to be drafted in the first round of both the MLB and NFL Drafts. This week in Hoover, another dual-sport star is hoping to follow in Murray’s footsteps. Fresh out of a football camp at IMG Academy, Dylan Lonergan joined the rest of his Georgia Jackets National teammates to compete in the WWBA 14u National Championship.

A quarterback on the gridiron, Lonergan traded his helmet and shoulder pads for a hat and glove. And in the fifth inning of the Jackets 9-2 victory over the MVP Terps National, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Lonergan gave the scouts and fans a brief taste of what is to come. Sitting in the upper 80s, Lonergan tossed 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to close out the win and move the Jackets one step closer to bracket play.

“He’s obviously gifted, and anytime you have a talent like that its fun to watch,” said coach Jeff Auterson. “He just came back from a football camp in Florida, and we just threw him out there for 25 pitches or so. It’s a joy to see him come back here and do it for the team.”

So many kids are specializing in one sport as early as middle school. It’s foolish to limit a 14 year old to one activity year round. Still, it is a widely held belief that the commitments of playing quarterback and pitching will eventually become too much, even for the greatest of athletes. You can never become truly elite unless you ultimately choose one path, they say. Well, Lonergan has other ideas.

“I like both equally. I don’t have a favorite,” Lonergan said. “I would like to play both sports in college.”

And there is evidence to believe Lonergan can accomplish this goal. Jameis Winston played both football and baseball at Florida State, and Deion Sanders starred in the Seminoles secondary as a defensive back and as an outfielder for Mike Martin’s baseball team.  In 1992, Sanders played in an Atlanta Falcons football game in Miami and then jetted to Pittsburgh to play in the Braves NLCS game. Bo Jackson played running back and centerfield at Auburn, and would go on to play in both the major leagues and NFL.

It’s certainly possible to do both, and it helps when you have a healthy attitude. While demanding, Lonergan says it’s not terribly difficult to juggle the two sports. He keeps things simple.

“Its just kind of whatever season it is, that’s what sport is the priority,” said Lonergan. “So right now, I’m in baseball mode. In a month or two, it will be football.”

There is a lot of upside to playing multiple sports, especially at a young age. You can avoid a burn out, and activating other muscles in different activities reduces the risk of overuse injuries. Plus, you help improve overall athleticism the more you engage your body in a variety of movements. Lonergan feels the impact of these benefits.

“I see a lot of overlap between my talent as a football player and as a baseball player,” he said. “Just throwing both a football and a baseball helps my arm strength.”

Coaches always rave about that “football mentality.” It’s a warrior spirit that craves a challenge. It’s all bravado. It’s an identity, and it manifests itself in instances of one on one competition. And it’s a pitching coach’s dream to have a staff full of guys with this trait. On the bump, its you verse the batter. My best against your best.

“Yeah, I definitely bring a football mentality on the mound,” Lonergan said. “I feel like no one can hit me. I just try to go out there and shove.”

At the core of this two-sport prodigy is a humble, well-liked kid. He doesn’t act like the star of the show. This Jackets 14u team has been together for many seasons now, and teammates know Lonergan simply as their friend, Dylan, not as this polarizing athlete with a bright future.

“The kids love him,” said Auterson. “A lot of these boys have been playing together for a long time so the synergy and fellowship amongst them is strong across the board. But Dylan is so dynamic and electric, and he’s a fantastic teammate.”

With the victory on Monday, the Jackets move to 4-1 overall and took over first place in Pool J. It was really an impressive performance all around, as David Luigs went 2-for-2 with two doubles and two runs scored. Colton Smith was also 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a run scored. At first, however, it seemed scoring would be at a premium as the MVP Terps sent righthander Bryson Moore to the hill, and he looked excellent sitting in the mid 80s. But the Jackets battled him, and were able to knock Moore from the game early and put up a few crooked numbers to build the big lead.

“The team raises their game when we face top level talent,” said Auterson. “That kid over there (Moore) threw fantastic. He was throwing 84-85 mph, and, honestly, that kind of fired us up. When we see good arms like that, we enjoy it.

“Today, we rose to the challenge.”

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