During February, March and the first weekend of April, Joey Velazquez ground at Schembechler Hall and Glick Field House to earn a linebacker spot in Michigan’s Two-Deep for the reigning Big Ten champions.
By May, he was a spark plug for the Michigan baseball team, delivering a two-game RBI singles to lead Michigan 5-4 in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
When summer comes, Velazquez will have Big Ten championship rings for his efforts in both sports. Coincidence? Not for Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich.
“You know, there’s a reason he lifted a football trophy in the fall,” Bakich told WTKA’s Michigan Insider Tuesday. “He’s just cut from such a fabric. And all he’s added to our team this year is just a championship pedigree.”
In an era of sports specialization and year-round training for collegiate-level sports, Velazquez has managed to work as a two-sport athlete in Michigan. He’s still working his way up the football depth chart, playing 81 snaps last fall, mostly on special teams, and making two tackles.
On the baseball field, however, Velazquez has found a role. This season, he has started 21 games in the outfield and has a healthy .278 batting average, .380 on-base percentage and .532 batting percentage. He has four home runs, eight doubles, 16 runs batted in and 17 runs.
Those stats are more impressive when you consider that Velazquez spent the spring training with the soccer team — the sport he has a scholarship to in Michigan.
“This guy. This guy is the most disciplined, hardworking boy, one of the (best) I’ve ever seen,” Bakich said. “To think that we didn’t even have him all fall, of course we didn’t have him in the fall. I basically don’t have him for half of March and April. He’s coming back in May and putting himself back into the lineup.
“And he doesn’t train with us. I mean he has his time commitment to football. He does things, you know, a little bit here, a little bit there by himself. And for him to give us a spark like he let us down on the track, I mean it was great.”
To Bakich’s delight, Velazquez hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down despite spending about six weeks without daily training in any of the sports over the past 10 months. He’s hit .286s in the past two weeks (8 for 28) and hit base seven times for Michigan during the Big Ten tournament.
At a time when schools are selling recruits because they’re multi-athletes, and prospects are making plans to play multiple sports in college before reality hits, Velazquez is doing to work. Now he has two Big Ten titles to his name.
“It’s a lot of time management, just discipline,” Velazquez told Big Ten Network after his 3-on-4 game against Illinois on Thursday. “I couldn’t do it without these guys, they support me so much and help me. Coach Bakich and everyone else understand so much what I’m up to. I’m just honored to be part of a great program.”
(Photo of story: Paul Sherman, MGoBlog.com)