Burgin's Gross to play baseball at Cumberland

January 05, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

BURGIN - Zack Gross is probably the best player at his school in two different sports, but he said he has known for some time which one he would play after high school.

The Burgin senior said he loves playing both baseball and basketball, but his future is in baseball, the sport he has committed to play at Cumberland College.

"I love basketball, but I just have gotten more interest from colleges for baseball," Gross said. "I really don't ever get tired of either one, but baseball is my first priority."

Gross signed his letter-of-intent last week to get the cycle of financial aid paperwork started; there will be a formal signing ceremony later this month at his school.


"I like their program, I like their coach. He was real straightforward and up front with me, which is just what I like," Gross said.

Gross visited the school's baseball camp last summer but didn't get to meet Cumberland coach Brad Shelton until later. He said he has also talked with some local athletes who play baseball and other sports at Cumberland, and he consulted with Burgin baseball coach Terry Pitman, basketball coaches Don Irvine and Will Carlton and even superintendent Dick Webb for their advice.

Cumberland went 32-16 last year and finished third in the Mid-South Conference, and the Patriots are 66-41 in their last two years under Shelton. Gross said he was recruited as a pitcher-outfielder, and he said Shelton told him he should be prepared to play as a freshman in the 2005 season.

"He told me to make my goal to be a contributor," Gross said.

Gross said he knows he'll need to work on his strength and speed, but he said he also saw something else while playing last summer.

"I need to really get my hands quicker," he said. "Hitting 80 miles per hour (pitches) in high school and hitting 88 in college is a whole different ballgame.

"I got a pretty good idea (this summer). That really helped me a lot in what I need to work on."

Gross hit .469 and drove in 15 runs last season. On the mound, he was 7-2 with a 2.53 earned run average

Gross's signing comes relatively early in his senior year for athletes headed to NAIA schools, but he said he's sure he made the right choice.

"I wanted to make sure I made the right decision, and I didn't want my senior year to slip away and wait 'til baseball season was over," he said. "It's a burden off my shoulders."

And now that it's done, he said college baseball is on the back burner as he enjoys his final basketball season.

"Cumberland is in the back of my mind," he said. "I've got high school priorities right now. I'm not even looking at high school baseball season right now. I'm focused on basketball."

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