Eric Cerantola (Credit Baseball Canada)
There are plenty of examples from across the sports world of athletes taking time during the off-season to put down their hockey sticks or lacing up a different pair of cleats and playing a different sport.
Wayne Gretzky ‘couldn’t wait’ to play baseball in the summer. New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh won state titles on his high school’s hockey and baseball teams while also a member of the football team. You can still have a passion for hockey without spending every waking hour practicing for it.
Over the summer, two OMHA grads went from the rink to the baseball diamond. Josh Maguire (Quinte Red Devils), who recently captained his hometown Cobourg Cougars to the RBC Cup after four years playing with the Peterborough Petes, captured a gold medal in softball at the Canada Summer Games while Eric Cerantola (Oakville Rangers) earned his spot on the Canadian Junior National Team.
Playing baseball was something that both had always done in the hockey off-season. It was a way to keep each sport fresh and to build up the excitement of a new year.
“For me it was just being an athlete. You weren’t just a hockey player, you weren’t just a baseball player,” said Maguire. “In order to be good at something or to excel and get to the next level, I think you have to be a rounded athlete.”
Josh Maguire as a member of Team Ontario
He adds that when playing pickup sports, it’s easy to see which of his teammates have the coordination that comes from being well-rounded. Taking time away from hockey brought a ‘hunger’ back and prevented the game from going stale.
“You’ve got to miss the game sometimes,” said the third baseman. “When you miss the game, that’s when you get that extra bit of motivation and you work that little bit harder because you missed it and it just reminds you how much you loved it.”
“Maintaining the athleticism, that’s a big part of what hockey did for me as a baseball player,” agreed Cerantola. “Just as well on the hockey side, getting away from hockey and not playing it yearlong and coming back with a grit or something like that. That helped a lot. I train for both during the off-season.”
Named to the Junior National Team (U-18), Cerantola spent his summer on the mound solidifying his spot on the roster for the upcoming World Cup. He made the Junior team as an underager and has been with the program since October.
Cerantola recently pitched in the team’s victory over Australia in Game 1 of the World Cup selection camp tournament, striking out seven batters over four innings while giving up a run and a walk.
Andrew Coe (Credit Glen Freeman/Rugby Canada)
With just a few weeks in between the end of hockey season and the start of baseball season, time management becomes a crucial skill. Maguire’s gameplan was to focus on his speed and footwork in the off-season and noticed an improvement.
“All of a sudden, without me noticing it, (my speed) transitioned over into softball,” said Maguire. “I was stealing bases all over the place, I was stretching singles into doubles. That wasn’t even something I was thinking about training. I was trying to train for hockey and all of a sudden it translated into softball for me.”
Another OMHA alumni earning himself a spot on a National team was Markham’s Andrew Coe, who worked his way up through the Rugby Canada system and is now a full-time professional with the team.
While his schedules would often conflict, Coe said his coaches were more than supportive of him pursuing two different sports as they believed it improved his game.
“It helped my hand-eye coordination. It helped my spatial awareness and reading the game… I think the biggest thing would be outside the athletic spectrum, more time management skills,” said Coe. “Between going to school, playing hockey and playing rugby, it takes a lot of time. It helped me manage my homework load with my training schedule. It also helped me become a better team athlete.”
Coe also played lacrosse growing up and believes in the crossover athleticism that comes from being a multi-sport athlete. His training regimen at the time focused on becoming bigger and growing his explosiveness while maintaining a high level of cardio.
Maguire with the Quinte Red Devils
“During the off-season, (playing two sports is) also a great way to stay in shape. If I wasn’t doing anything in the summer, I’d need a training camp to get back in shape for hockey but thankfully I had rugby which helped keep me in peak physical condition."
Eventually, there comes a time where many high-level athletes need to make a decision on which sport to focus on, not because of losing love for the game but because of the necessary training and time commitments.
While both Maguire and Cerantola grew up playing the same two sports, the future sends each on a different path. Maguire will still be playing hockey while enrolled at UOIT while Cerantola recently announced his commitment to play baseball at Mississippi State University.
“It was a great experience getting drafted (by the Owen Sound Attack),” said Cerantola. “I wish I could have a chance to do both but at this point I’ve got to make a decision.”
Maguire’s goal is still to make the Men’s National Softball Team while continuing to be a multi-sport athlete.
“I want to keep playing hockey and keep playing softball at a competitive level for as long as my body will allow me.”
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