For all of the talk of the importance of being a multi-sport athlete in high school, let Waconia pitcher Dalton Sawyer stand as the counterpoint.
Sawyer, a 6-foot-4 senior left-hander, gave up football two years ago to concentrate on baseball.
"I remember when he came out before his junior year," Waconia football coach Pat Foley said. "He was signed up and everything, but he came and told me that he was going to concentrate on baseball instead. And I guess it paid off."
Sawyer joined the Minnesota Blizzard, an all-star team sponsored by the Minnesota Baseball Academy that plays fall and winter baseball.
Sawyer estimates that he's had maybe one month off a year since then -- "I had let the arm a rest a little," he said -- but has no regrets. His dedication was rewarded with a scholarship to play baseball with the Gophers.
Staff writer Jim Paulsen spent some time talking baseball with Sawyer.
Q A recent study indicated that the biggest threat to young pitchers is overuse of their arms. How do you avoid that?
A I do a lot of band exercises and rotator cuff work to stay healthy and strong. That's where your throwing comes from.
Q You had an arm injury that almost kept you out of your 10th-grade season, didn't you?
A I had bad mechanics then. But as long as I'm smart and doing my exercises, I don't think I'll have any problems.
Q Did doors open for you more easily because you're a lefty?
A Being tall and lefthanded, people didn't even have to see me throw to get a little excited. I think if I was righthanded, I wouldn't have gotten nearly the attention.
Q Tell us about your repertoire.
A I have four pitches: a two-seam [fastball], a four-seamer, a changeup and a slider. And I have a lot of movement on my pitches.
Q Full count, two outs, one-run lead. What pitch do you throw?
A Two-seamer. It moves down and away from righthanded batters.
Q How hard do you throw?
A I've hit 90 [miles per hour] a couple of times.
Q Think you'll be able to increase your velocity as you get older?
A I'm sure of it. I'm kind of lanky. I only weigh 170 pounds.
Q Why Minnesota?
A Hands down, it came down to the coaches. The way they conduct themselves, the way they run a team. It's not only a great environment to grow as a player, but they also care about the whole maturing process as you grow into a man.
Q You play baseball 11 months out of the year. How important is the short high school season in the grand scheme of things?
A I think it's extremely important. The Blizzard is a good thing because it gets the best out of you and develops you for varsity ball. Baseball is a spring sport, isn't it?
Q With your reputation, do you find yourself with a target on your back or does it add an intimidation factor?
A I used to think I had a target on my back, but with the confidence that has been instilled in me from the Blizzard, I think I have more intimidation going for me.