At 5:30AM a phone alarm goes off on a chilly fall morning in Worcester, Massachusetts. Sean Gustin, a freshman at Holy Cross, rolls over to silence the alarm. Next, he checks his calendar to see whether he is headed to the hockey rink or the baseball field for practice that morning – it was the rink. This was one of his busier days – 3 hours of skating, followed by 2 hours of economics classes, then an hour for lunch, another 2 hours of class, and finally a 3 hour baseball practice to cap off the day. This may not be a college student’s ideal schedule, but not everybody aspires to play two major sports at a Division 1 college.
A D1 athlete playing both hockey and baseball might not sound very common, and it shouldn’t. That’s because Sean was the only athlete in the entire country playing both of those sports at the D1 level from 2012 – 2014. As we all know, the college recruiting process can be a daunting challenge for any student. It becomes twice the challenge when an athlete with strong academics is pursuing two sports at the collegiate level. A challenge that offers many interesting lessons for high school athletes of any sport.
Sean’s recruiting story began during the winter of his junior year of high school. Sean was having a good season at Belmont Hill, but he was looking to gain more exposure. Understanding that you can’t just expect college coaches to find you, Sean and his family thought it would be best to participate in a hockey showcase. So he entered one, and he played amazing. Immediately after the showcase, Sean started hearing from college coaches of all divisions. Although excited about the hockey interest, Sean stayed motivated to play baseball in the spring and see what sort of interest he might spark on the mound.
Now fast forward to his junior baseball season a few months later. Once again, Sean was having a great season pitching and was putting up stunning numbers (he didn’t allow a single run to score his junior and senior season). Using the knowledge he gained from his hockey showcase, he decided to enter a baseball showcase. There he once again put on a great performance in front of dozens of college coaches. Phone calls and emails started rolling in, and Sean and his family embarked on the next phase of the recruiting process for his baseball career.
With interest from both collegiate baseball and hockey programs, Sean was sitting in a very fortunate position as a high school recruit, but he still faced a very difficult decision. Where he would spend his four years of college? He and his family took a very methodical approach to the decision and that did not start with baseball or hockey – but rather academics.
Sean’s grades were very strong, which helped his prospects as a recruit for colleges with strict acceptance standards. Looking into the future, past his career in athletics, he and his family knew that his degree would serve as his most important tool in the “real world.” They narrowed their search to the top academic universities and revised his list of possible schools.
Next, they looked at all of the schools that had expressed interest in both hockey and baseball (it’s worth noting that at this point, Sean had not yet decided he wanted to play both sports in college). They noticed a trend in the schools and found a few situations of overlap – where academics, baseball, and hockey all fit together. One of these situations was Holy Cross.
Sean and his family continued through the rest of the recruiting process carefully considering all the other varieables that go into a player’s college commitment. They ultimately decided on Holy Cross. After four years, and with a world-class degree in hand, he chose to pursue professional baseball and still is today.
Looking back at his junior year of high school, Sean could have easily just picked either hockey or baseball to solely pursue. However, by not limiting his sights to one sport, he opened the door for himself to have many more opportunities at the collegiate level. The recruiting process is not as simple as finding the school with the best sports program that contacts you – you must understand the level of interest from that program, the degree you’ll be leaving with, the quality of your time spent on campus, and so much more before making that decision.
Additionally, notice “Sean and his family” is mentioned, rather than just “Sean.” Parents and athletes must understand, that for most players, this is absolutely a family decision and should not be placed solely on the shoulders of a 16-18 year old. College recruitment can be a confusing process if you are not equipped with the right tools. Sean will note that his family was vital to finding the right college in Holy Cross.
By Donny Murray – Founder of ProsKnowBest and teammate of Sean Gustin at Holy Cross
Donny currently pitches professionally for the Utica Unicorns and runs a company called ProsKnowBest, an innovative coaching service where professional players provide a personalized analysis package of your submitted video. You can learn more by clicking here.