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Preps

Crusader divides his focus

Marc Sawyer will play baseball and tennis for Canterbury.

By LAURA LEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 2003


ST. PETERSBURG -- Marc Sawyer needs to get in shape.

Tennis shape that is.

Canterbury's basketball season is over, and after slipping in as many baseball practices as his schedule could handle, tennis has arrived. And if Sawyer is serious about returning to the state tournament, he must hit the hardcourt.

At Canterbury, sports practically revolve around Sawyer, a 17-year-old senior. As a freshman, he made it known he played two sports, tennis and baseball, which seasons' overlap.

Athletic director Dave Smith decided it wouldn't be an issue, and Smith, who also is the baseball, basketball and volleyball coach, has been scheduling tennis matches around baseball games ever since. (This year, Sawyer played basketball as well just to help the team out. He worked his way to a starting position and was second on the team in rebounds.)

In the spring, Sawyer usually has a full week, three baseball games and two tennis matches. He has made a name for himself in both. As a sophomore, he led the county with a .560 batting average. Sawyer also has competed in the state tennis tournament for the past two years.

While he will attend Yale on a baseball scholarship, it's in tennis he has something to prove because this season is likely his last.

"I kind of want to go out on top, as anybody would," Sawyer said. "This is my last chance to win something for tennis because after high school, it's going to get pushed aside."

Things used to be 50-50. Sawyer used to play both sports year-round. As he got older, he knew if he wanted to be serious in one, he would have to choose.

The summer before his junior year, Sawyer realized he had a better chance at being a pro in baseball. There was no major tennis failure. At 12, he was ranked in the top 10 in the state and he played in the USTA Florida final as a junior at 14. But he knew the demands of tennis would be tougher than baseball. He let up. The last tennis tournament he played was almost a year ago.

"You could just tell he'd made the decision," said his mother, Vicki. "Tennis was all-consuming. He'd have to quit baseball to get to that level."

"I realized I had more passion for baseball," Sawyer said. "It might be the team atmosphere. It's a lot of fun."

This season, he will do what he always has done, split his time. While excelling in two sports, Sawyer also has managed to earn a 4.2 grade point average, second in his class.

Yet finishing well in tennis remains his focus.

"I think it's going to make me work harder," he said.

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