Park City baseball team bolstered by dual-sport athletes
Park City High School sophomore Will McCurdy hit a grounder against Skyline’s third baseman during the Miners’ game last Wednesday, then ran as fast as his legs carried him toward first base. It’s no secret that McCurdy has wheels — he’s currently a sprinter on the track team and also plays running back for the football team — and he ended up beating the pitch at first by a fraction of a second.
A batter later, McCurdy flew over base to score in a fourth-inning three-run that helped the Miners win 8-7 that day.
Junior Jake Farnell also made an appearance on the mound during this game. A day earlier, he was playing second doubles for the Park City men’s tennis team. Park City’s baseball team started 14-5 heading into Tuesday’s game against Olympus, and it helps to have a pair of athletes good enough to play on two different varsity teams at the same time.
“Will is really fast, and we support him because he’s really fast,” Park City baseball coach David Feasler said. “Jake Farnell is a good arm and a reliever arm that we’ve relied on a lot and he’s had a lot of games. And he also loves tennis, and I will always support that. I want our kids to be good adults, and I think the more things you do when you’re young, the better off you are personally.
The baseball, track and tennis schedules don’t overlap too much, so it’s been manageable.
“Will missed a few practices to run in a few meets, and Jake missed a few things here and there, but they did a really good job managing both schedules,” Feasler said. “I think it’s a very difficult thing for a 16-year-old to do, and they did a good job.”
In McCurdy, the Miners have a player who ran the 100 yards in 11.25 seconds at the Tiger Trials in Orem on Saturday. Park City have been aggressive on baseline, stealing 58 team goals this week. McCurdy was at the forefront with a team record 13.
McCurdy was used primarily as a pinch runner last season and struggled at home plate when given the chance. However, he has proven himself to be more than a baserunner this year. He’s more comfortable at home plate and gets on base a lot more often, giving him more opportunities to wreak havoc on base paths.
“If you look at last year, I had about 12, 14 at bats, batted like .150,” he said. “It was bad. My swing was all over the place, I was under everything. And then this year in the offseason I worked pretty hard to work on my swing and get it up to standard. I’m now batting (in the) 300, so I think it’s pretty much paying off.
While McCurdy runs the basics with ease, the running track is a bit different, mainly with the distance he has to run. The distance between two bases is much shorter than 100 yards, and McCurdy believes the shorter distances in the game of baseball are more of its strengths. He is still working on his running form, as he described watching him sprint as “a little painful”.
“Running 100 yards, I’m halfway there and I’m like, ‘When is this going to end?'” McCurdy said. “I’m really good in fast bursts, and towards the end I just see people catching me. Here it’s good because I’m only running 90 feet so I don’t really have time to slow down.
For Farnell, playing tennis is just a recent development. Park City boys’ tennis coach Justin DeLong saw a lot of potential in Farnell’s game in his limited time with the sport.
“Jake has gone from not playing or taking any lessons, I believe, in his life to then starting tennis last June,” DeLong said. “He has come a very long way not only in his technique but also in understanding the game and where to move and double down strategy. I think he’s come a long way, I’m super proud of him and I’m excited because he’s in it.
Farnell said he decided to play tennis one day because his sister played. While it’s easy to see how McCurdy’s speed can transfer to baseball, Farnell’s baseball-tennis combination might seem a bit odd at first. But it turns out throwing and tennis have some common attributes and movements, especially with serves.
“From throw to serve, it’s a similar move,” Farnell said. “After training because I loved the sport, I was able to understand very quickly.”
DeLong also saw the similarities.
“There’s a natural throwing motion that Jake has from baseball that has absolutely helped him with his tennis,” he said. “You can tell he’s thrown a lot in his life because it’s the same movement, especially on the serve. It uses the kinetic chain of movement, doesn’t it? And you start using your bottom muscles of your body and your core, then that translates into that throwing motion where you whip your arm, then the racquet and racquet head around your body to create more power.
One problem Farnell runs into is that the two teams usually play on Tuesdays. When the two sports overlap, Farnell will play tennis instead of baseball.
“The hardest part is definitely deciding what takes priority over what because I love both sports,” he said. “I went into the spring season thinking tennis was my main sport since I only pitch for baseball. I have decided that on Tuesdays – we always have tennis and baseball games – I will always play tennis. And then all the other baseball games I can do and then Thursday for tennis don’t overlap.
On the tennis court, Farnell was paired with Felix Schlegel, and it worked for the Miners. DeLong sees potential in this duo once the two juniors have more experience playing with each other.
“I think Jake was a natural fit for Felix at double No. 2,” DeLong said. “I think it was very important to have him, and once I realized that Jake and Felix were a great team, I played them every time. Hopefully they take this summer and keep going. to work on a doubles strategy and that they can enter next year as a doubles team.
Farnell didn’t play baseball last year, but this year he’s back on the mound coming out of the bullpen for Park City. Feasler liked what he saw from Farnell this season.
“He’s got a live arm, he’s got a really live arm, he’s got a good breaking ball,” Feasler said. “When he’s in the zone it’s really good, and he’s our bridge guy. He’s like our setup guy in Asher (Levine) to end the game. So Jake is a really important player for us.
The fate of Park City’s men’s baseball, track and field and tennis teams will be decided later this month. But McCurdy and Farnell will give their all no matter what team they play on.