By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Jeffrey Barnes, Special to Sports Union
“Every athletes dream should be to be like Bo. To be able to play both and excel at both would be awesome however I’m excited to focus on baseball and see how far it can take me.” - Connor Desiderio, Maryvale baseball and football.
When you think of two-sport athletes the conversation starts and ends with Bo Jackson. Jackson was the greatest two-sport athlete of our time. If it wasn’t for a freak injury, Jackson would have been easily in the hall of fame for both baseball and football.
That’s how good he was. In his heighten state, Jackson and Nike came up with the Bo Knows campaign, The campaign was a major success in 1989 and 1990 and set Jackson on his way.
Every kid growing up who plays more than one sport wants to be like Bo Jackson. They want to have the type of success that he had. In high school, many athletes play more than one sport. It’s kind of a right of passage.
Playing more than one sport is not an easy task. Being good at one or more sports is even harder. A athlete must find the balance between the sports they are playing. They need to figure out how much practice time to put into both sports so that they don’t cheat the team and teammates.
Maryvale High School baseball player Connor Desiderio is the star quarterback on the football team and is the ace of the baseball program. His dedication to both is second to none and he could have probably played both in college.
While he loves football, Desiderio has chosen baseball as his path to success. He recently committed to St. Bonaventure University where he will play for the Bonnies on the diamond.
“Being able to play both football and baseball at Maryvale at the varsity level for 4 years has been amazing. The community really supports our sports programs along with the school so it’s a lot of fun playing for Maryvale,” stated Desiderio. “The thought of only playing football in college or even playing both sports has definitely crossed my mind over the years, but I realized baseball is the sport I love more and am excited to only focus on baseball after this fall.”
Baseball is his first love, but Desiderio brings a little football to the mound every times he pitches. Most pitchers are laid back and just do their thing on the mound. Some will jacked up when they get a big strike out in a high-pressured inning.
Desiderio likes to get jacked up right away. He brings that football mentality, and intensity, to the diamond every time he goes out to pitch. While some may look at it as being a little strange, Desiderio just sees it as part of his routine.
“The presence I have on the mound is somewhat unorthodox some may say,” stated Desiderio. “I like to jack myself up and have an intense attitude on the mound. I believe you have to have a lot of guts and mental toughness to be a solid pitcher.”
Mental toughness sure comes in handy when you are a starting pitcher. Being able to have a short memory when something goes wrong is what separates the good pitchers from the greats. It would be nice to go on the mound and throw shutout ball for seventh inning with 10 strikeouts every time out.
That isn’t the case. There will be times when you may not have your best stuff and have to fight and claw through every single at bat. Having mental toughness will help you get out of some of those jams.
Being a quarterback on the football team allowed Desiderio to have a short memory. And, allow him to focus on the next play or next batter.
“What helped me work on that aspect of my game has honestly just been giving up home runs over the years,” stated Desiderio. “Sometimes the hitter gets lucky is the mindset I try and go with. Being a quarterback has also helped me have a short memory. Throwing an interception is just like giving up a home run, and I’ve had my fair share over the years.”
One thing Desiderio hasn’t had over the years is injuries. He has been pretty lucky avoiding the injury bug during both seasons. Jackson was stud on the football field. He could things that only people would dream off. It was a freak accident during a game against the Begnals, when he played with the Raiders, that ended his football career.
He still played baseball, but he wasn’t the same. You saw glimpses on Bo at times. Like Bo, Desiderio never has thought about the injury bug, and what it might do to either career. He just went out their and played the game the way he knew how.
Desiderio knew if he played football too safe that he would get injured. or, if he played baseball at half speed that injuries would happen. Desiderio just went out there and did his job like the coaches asked him time in and time out.
“Personally I was never going to and the thought never crossed my mind but the thought has been brought up to me over the years by family and friends,” stated Desiderio. “It’s just my mindset as a competitor. You know the risk when you sign up to play, and unfortunately injuries do happen in football but I could never let that make me play any less hard or not want to play, I just believe injuries are part of the sport.”
As he finishes up his football career, Desiderio will soon turn his sites to baseball full time. He wants to have a solid senior season and then make sure he works on everything he needs to be able to step in as a freshman and compete for the Bonnies.
Desiderio knows it won’t be easy. Playing in the Atlantic 10 is no cake walk. It is one of the best Mid-Major baseball league in the country. To make things a little harder as well is that the Bonnies are one of the smallest schools in the A-10.
To compete with the best, Desiderio knows he needs to step his game up.
“It’s going to be awesome. It’s been a dream of mine to not only play college ball but play DI and being able to play in the A10 is surreal,” stated Desiderio. “My focal point will be getting bigger and putting on more muscle. I’m also going to do a lot of leg work to try and improve my velocity.”
Connor Desiderio might not be the Bo Jackson of 2019, but there is one thing Desiderio knows for sure he KNOWS how to compete.