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Championship Bout: New Recruit Should Play Two

By Robert C. Boutwell, Crimson Staff Writer

The recent news of top Minnesota high school quarterback Liam O’Hagan’s commitment to attend Harvard in the fall was undoubtedly good news for the next four years of Crimson football. After all, the 6’2, 210 lb. O’Hagan was also recruited by D-IA heavyweights Colorado, Boston College, Vanderbilt and Minnesota, and was both All-Metro and All-State in his senior year at Breck High School.

However, O’Hagan’s matriculation at Harvard could prove to be doubly good news for the Crimson athletic program if he decides to make his way over to O’Donnell Field next spring to try out for the baseball sqaud—his fastball has reportedly been clocked in the nineties.

While football coach Tim Murphy told The Crimson in an interview earlier this month that O’Hagan had decided to focus his efforts to the gridiron, Harvard baseball coach Joe Walsh couldn’t deny when pressed that he would love to have O’Hagan try out for the baseball team as well.

“I’m excited that he’s coming here,” Walsh said earlier this month. “There haven’t been an awful lot of two-sport athletes here recently.”

While Walsh is correct that there haven’t been any recent two-sport athletes playing both football and baseball, two prominent Harvard athletes have been playing very successful roles in two different sports for a number of years and another has just begun a multi-team commitment.

Senior Rob Fried stars as a winger for the hockey squad in the winter before taking the field as a long-stick defensive midfielder in the spring for the lacrosse team.

Likewise, junior Zach Chandis has been an everyday player for both the men’s soccer and lacrosse teams since his freshman year.

In addition to these two upperclassmen, freshman running back Clifton Dawson just began running track for Harvard, coming in second in the 60 meter dash in a meet against Yale earlier this month.

However, Chandis and Fried came to play two sports in very different ways. Fried was recruited solely as a hockey player whereas Chandis was duly recruited by both the lacrosse and soccer programs.

“I did not come to Harvard intent on playing lacrosse,” Fried said. “I was just playing JV lacrosse with some of the other hockey players and a spot opened up on the varsity level at my position, and it was so much fun that I decided to stick around.”

Since Fried was recruited by the hockey program, he realizes that his first priority is to the hockey team and he focuses on this sport when conflicts arise between his commitments to both teams. He will join his comrades on the lacrosse field after Harvard’s hockey season has ended this spring, something that Fried obviously hopes is as late as possible.

“I came to Harvard to be a hockey player and, to some extent, my admission to Harvard was due to the hockey team’s recruiting efforts,” Fried said. “As such, I am indebted to the hockey team first and foremost. The lacrosse coaches understand that commitment and realize that hockey comes first.”

Chandis was originally recruited by soccer coach John Kerr, but lacrosse coach Scott Anderson heard about Chandis’ skills as a lacrosse midfielder through some of his old high school teammates.

“When I came up for a visit, I met with both coaches separately and they felt if I could handle [playing both soccer and lacrosse], they would have no problems with me doing two sports, and they even encouraged it,” Chandis said.

While Fried and Chandis agree that playing two sports is incredibly challenging and increases risk of injury, both maintain that their play in one sport helps the other immensely.

“Soccer helps me with my footwork, which is very important in lacrosse,” Chandis said. “Likewise, lacrosse helps me to be able to physically throw my body around against bigger guys on the soccer field, without having to be afraid or shy away.”

So playing two sports is definitely possible, as these two athletes have demonstrated by becoming major contributors for both of their sports, all while handling the multitude of responsibilities created by playing on two D-I teams. However, whether or not O’Hagan should play baseball as well as football or not is not something I or anyone else can really say. It’s a decision that has to be made jointly by O’Hagan and Murphy.

“I think the relevant issue is that Liam will likely be gaining admission to Harvard through the football team,” Fried said. “As a result, he has a certain level of indebtedness to those coaches who facilitated his matriculation. Some coaches do not feel comfortable with the two-sport commitment because of the risk of injury. If Liam is considering pro football, he has to value how much baseball will benefit his career plans versus spring football.”

O’Hagan’s ability as a pitcher could clearly help the Crimson baseball team, whose need for good arms will never be exhausted. But before he makes a decision, O’Hagan and Murphy will have to consider exactly how willing they are to risk O’Hagan’s possible injury or lost practice time by playing baseball. If they deem that it’s not worth the risk and that O’Hagan will be better off in the long run only playing football, so be it.

However, if they weigh the important factors—with Fried and Chandis serving as prime examples—and decide that O’Hagan can handle both sports, Walsh and the baseball team will undoubtedly be thrilled.

It takes a special kind of person and understanding coaches to be able to manage playing two D-I sports and completing the rigorous demands of a Harvard academic schedule, but perhaps Murphy’s willingness to let Dawson participate in Track leaves open the possibility that he would let O’Hagan play baseball.

“Mental toughness, organization, and most importantly love for the game have to be the final determining factors in whether or not you are able to do two sports,” Chandis said.

—Staff writer Robert C. Boutwell can be reached at boutwel@fas.harvard.edu.

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