The success of a two-sport athlete at the collegiate level is becoming increasingly scarce, especially with two physically demanding sports such as baseball and football, but to Jesse Hanckel it’s a way to stand out, and not only gives him an advantage on the playing field, but an edge in the eyes of scouts as well.
At the Division I and II levels there has been a steady decline in multisport athletes in terms of contact sports like baseball, football, basketball, and soccer due to the physically demanding nature of the sports. Most of the dual sport athletes at these levels stick to a singular contact sport and will sometimes compete in track and field for the conditioning aspect of the events. However, at the junior college level you tend to see more athletes, such as Hanckel, who excel and compete in multiple sports in order to attract scouts in hopes of gaining a scholarship.
Hanckel is doing just that. After catching the attention of scouts, he committed to Azusa Pacific University for both baseball and football. Hanckel has excelled on the mound with a 4-0 record, putting up a 2.90 earned run average over 49 2/3 innings pitched with 40 strikeouts. On the gridiron last season, he threw for 1,522 yards and averaged 152 yards per game.
Hanckel is a starting pitcher and starting quarterback for the Lancers which may seem like a strenuous load on his throwing arm, however as Hanckel points out the throwing styles are just different enough to not cause strain on his arm.
“Physically, it’s two different throwing motions, so it doesn’t really have the same effect,” said Hanckel. “Baseball takes a toll on my elbow, and football will take a toll on my shoulder. So it’s not the same muscle groups it’s affecting, so there’s not wear and tear in the same spot.”
Hanckel has been playing baseball since he was 3 years old and football since he was 8. He never played club ball, due to the scheduling limitations involved with the sports.
“The most difficult thing is scheduling, because you’re trying to stay in shape for both sports,” said Hanckel. “When we’re in baseball season, football has spring ball, and then in football season, baseball has winter ball. So it’s just tough trying to make it work at both ends.”
The appeal of a multisport athlete to a college coach is undeniable. Urban Meyer, the head football coach for Ohio State, recruits multisport athletes more than any other coach, and his win percentage supports his strategy.
For the 2014 season, 42 of the 47 players Meyer recruited were multisport athletes. This is something coach Meyer swears by, and it’s working. Meyers has seen astounding success, bringing home a national championship in 2014 for the Buckeyes after an amazing 14-1 season. He followed that with a 12-1 record in 2015 and a 11-2 record in 2016.
Hanckel, who came from Village Christian High School where he broke every passing record in the school’s football history books, walked on as a redshirt freshman at Fresno State. He then came to PCC because he knew head football coach Tom Maher, and started as their quarterback. Coach Maher knew about Hanckel’s talents in both sports and pushed for Hanckel to compete in both.
“He became our starting quarterback, and when the season ended, he was pretty beat up,” said Coach Maher. “His parents, Pat the baseball coach, and I all sat down and had a talk about him playing baseball and we were all into it and loved it. And even at the beginning of the season he would still come out and throw with us.”
Maher knows of the importance of multisport athletes and acknowledges that it gives the players an advantage.
“It’s very important, it shows athleticism and drive,” said Maher.
Hanckel is well-liked in the dugout, and his work ethic doesn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.
“He’s definitely a guy that works hard,” said Sergio Valenzuela, a teammate of Hanckel’s who also pitches for the Lancers. “His talent shows for it. He’s a competitor on the mound, and when he’s off the field he takes care of the things he needs to do to keep his arm in shape.”
Hanckel’s athleticism and work ethic set him apart from the pack, and give him a competitive edge. He hopes to go pro in either sport and with his work ethic, athletic intelligence and natural talent that goal won’t be a Hail Mary.
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