Showcase : : Story
Monday, June 18, 2012

Two-sport star plays it safe

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

MINNEAPOLIS - He may have been the best pitcher at the 2012 Perfect Game National Showcase that most of the hundreds of scouts in attendance never got to see throw a pitch.

Tomball, Texas, right-hander Kohl Stewart, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound two-sport star who will be a senior at Houston's St. Pius X High School in the fall, made an appearance at the PG National Showcase, but it was short and not very sweet.

He was warming up at the Metrodome Saturday night when he felt a knot in his back. Trainers worked the knot out and Stewart felt like he was ready to pitch, but then developed some minor back spasms. The trainers and PG personnel thought it would be better if he just took the weekend off. Some observers who had watched him throw Saturday night made it known that he may have had the best live arm at the showcase.

"I probably could have thrown today but they're going to play it safe," Stewart said before doing some light throwing on Sunday. "They don't want me walking away from here with an elbow or a shoulder (injury) because I'm favoring my back, so they're going to play it safe. I'll be fine, it's not a big deal, and I'll bounce back from it. It's kind of a disappointment not being able to throw but when something like this happens you have to get over it."

Before the very minor back issue popped up, Stewart said he had been looking forward to pitching in not only his first Perfect Game showcase event, but the biggest and most highly scouted showcase event on PG's annual calendar.

"I really haven't been able to show what I can do to a larger crowd (of scouts)," he said. "There have been some people at my (high school) games that have seen what I can do, but I was ready to show everybody what I can do and put my name out there for good. It's adversity and you have to get over it. You deal with it and it's something we're going to take care of; I'll be fine, I'll bounce back and it's not a big deal."

Kohl is the third of seven children in Mark and Lisa Stewart's family, and Mark was here with him this weekend.

"The most disappointing thing about the way it's gone down is that Kohl really prepared himself and worked hard, and was mentally ready to come here and show  the world his skills," Mark said. "It just didn't work out, and you never know God's plan. I'm sure it will work out in the end."

Mark Stewart was correct when he said his son was looking forward to competing at the PG National.

"It's an honor to be picked as one of those kids that they think is pretty talented and capable of playing at this kind of (showcase), It's special and I feel honored," Kohl said.

In addition to his considerable baseball skills - he is currently PG's No. 44-ranked national prospect in the class of 2013 - Stewart is also a highly regarded national quarterback prospect. He is ranked the No. 5 "pocket-passer" QB in the country by and the No. 10 pro-style QB by He threw for 3,167 yards and 30 touchdowns his junior season at St. Pius X, while completing 55 percent of his passes.

On the baseball field this spring, Stewart was 6-1 with a 2.50 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. He has committed to Texas A&M as a football player, although the Aggies' football coaching staff has given him the go-ahead to play baseball and the baseball coaching staff will welcome him.

"I'm going to try to do both in college," he said. "That's what most people know me by - I'm a quarterback and a pitcher and that's what I like to do."

Stewart played nothing but baseball as a grade- and middle-schooler, and didn't start playing football until his freshman year in high school. He took to it like a bird that has found its wings.

 "When I got to high school they asked me to come out and play football and I fell in love with it," he said. "I just kind of kept playing that and things worked out and I started getting some looks from some colleges; I liked A&M, so I chose to go there.

"The baseball coaches at A&M said that if I wanted to play baseball too, that I could, so I'm going to try to take advantage of all those great opportunities at A&M."

Stewart played at the PG WWBA 2012 Grads or 17u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., with the Houston Banditos 17u Black last year, but most of the summer of 2011 was devoted to football. That was when the whole football recruiting process began to bubble to a boil and Stewart was busy making campus visits. His priorities will change this summer

"I'm trying to really focus on baseball," he said. "The football season starts so quick that you really can't put that away completely so I'm trying to balance both, but it's going to be more heavy with baseball right now."

Stewart will continue to play with the Houston Banditos and coach Ray DeLeon throughout the summer.

"I've played with them since I was 8 (years old) and we have a great bunch of guys," he said. "A lot of those kids are pretty talented, too, and just getting to play with the kids that I love and the kids that I've always played with, getting to spend my summer with them is pretty fun."

It seems certain that Stewart will have a life-changing decision to make next June after the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft is completed. As he continues to progress as a pitcher this summer, his draft stock will continue to climb and his name will be mentioned in "first round" conversations. In other words, he may never put on an A&M baseball or football jersey.

His situation is reminiscent of those shared by a couple of other recent two-sport stars.

In 2011, Oklahoma prep right-hander and PG All-American Archie Bradley had accepted a scholarship to play quarterback at the University of Oklahoma, but instead signed a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks after the D-backs made him the No. 7 overall selection in the 2011 MLB Draft. His deal was worth a reported $5 million over five years.

Earlier this month, the Texas Rangers selected PG All-American outfielder Jameis Winston in the 15th round of the 2012 draft fully expecting Winston to honor his commitment to play football at Florida State University. The five-star quarterback has not signed with the Rangers and it has been reported he will be playing football in Tallahassee this fall.

Stewart will consider his options carefully.

"I'm blessed to be in this position," he said. "You can't really over-think things like that; I'm happy to be where I'm at but I'm going to keep working and just try to be the best that I can be and see where it takes me."

"Thank God we have a year left to figure it all out, and I suspect by February we'll know which way it's going to go, depending on how football goes this year," Mark Stewart said. "But for now, he loves both sports and he doesn't want to choose yet. He's committed to play football at A&M and they've told him he can play both, and that would be a great thing if it actually could happen. But to play pitcher and quarterback is probably a pretty tough scenario."

After speaking with both Kohl and Mark for any length of time, it becomes obvious that a lot of thought will be put into the decision. In fact, it sounds as if Kohl has already given it a lot of thought.

"You're not going to just going to put something like that away on the back-burner and then expect to make a decision on the spot in June next year," he said. "My goal right now is to become the best player that I can be and all that kind of stuff will take care of itself. If that's an opportunity that presents itself, then I'll sit down with my family and make the best decision.

"That's not really something that you can prepare for but it is something you can think about and play out scenarios in your head and say, 'This is what I hope happens,'" he continued. "My dream is to play at the highest level I can, so if something like that were to present itself and it worked out, I would definitely chase it."

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