When Cody Young’s name pops up around Steinert, thoughts usually turn to football. After all, he rushed for 832 yards and eight touchdowns last fall, caught five passes for 81 yards and three more TDs, and defensively had 43 tackles (6.2 per game), four forced fumbles, an interception and fumble recovery.
And yet, beneath those shoulder pads and helmet lives a pretty good baseball player.
Through Steinert’s 13-3 start this season, Young was batting .438 with 21 hits, two doubles, a triple, 10 RBIs and 15 runs scored in his first season of playing varsity baseball.
Since he will play football at Rowan University this fall, one might think Cody would forego the diamond to prepare for the college gridiron.
“No, I always wanted to finish it out, especially my senior year,” Young said. “I just wanted to get on the field with these boys. It’s amazing here. All these kids have insane abilities to play baseball and the confidence and chemistry we all have works great.”
Despite his focus on baseball, Young is still getting some work done for his main sport.
“I’m always lifting and working on my agility and doing some drills,” he said. “It can hurt you for baseball if you don’t do it right. But I changed my schedule so it’s different types of workouts. I’m not gonna be that tight and sore playing baseball.”
While some coaches want their players just to focus on the sport they coach, many in high school and college encourage players to compete in different sports.
“One of the things we want is multi-sport athletes on our team,” Steinert coach Brian “The Chef” Giallella said. “Having someone with his athletic ability, his confidence, being a big-game situational player has added so much to our team. We understand that we get guys who play other sports and those are their first sport and that’s OK, there’s nothing wrong with that.
“Cody has a lot of natural ability. We have tons of guys that are multi-sport athletes. Deklin (Smith), Chris Nodeland. We have two guys that play basketball. It’s important for the make-up of our team.”
Playing two sports is one thing, but excelling in them both is a little more difficult. Young has seemingly mastered the art.
“He’s given us a lot offensively and defensively,” Giallella said. “He hits the ball very well. He’s a strong kid. He has a really short swing. We ended up moving him up to third because we pushed everyone up and he has had a big impact on our lineup.”
Young comes from an athletic background. His older brother Kyle was a standout two-way lineman for Steinert prior to Cody’s arrival. His uncle, Jim “Himer” Fink, was an All-State performer on the Spartans undefeated state championship soccer team in 1973.
In fact, Young started out following in uncle Himer’s footsteps.
“Football wasn’t my sport, it used to be soccer,” he said. “But my brother played football in high school and that’s when I got started with Pop Warner. I was about 10 years old. Pop Warner made me fall in love with football by the time I got to high school. That’s when I decided to start it here, and it’s my first love now.”
Baseball, however, is always something he will have an affair with.
“I’ve been playing since I was four years old so I guess it’s just in the blood,” Young said. “I started at Sunnybrae (Little League) and played Nottingham Babe Ruth. I used to play infield but once I got to high school they moved me to outfield. I like it. I’m in my own world out there.”
When the ball is hit, the rightfielder comes back to this world as he is fairly reliable with the glove. But it’s at the plate where he has drawn the most attention.
“I’ve been working really hard, listening to my coaches and it’s really helped me,” said Young, who got a few at-bats in last summer’s Last Dance Tournament, but none as a sophomore. “They’ve fixed my stance, loosened my hands and I get my hands right to the ball. And having so many good bats in the lineup takes a lot of pressure off. I know they’re gonna get hits and I can come up and bring them in. With these coaches and these kids, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.”
Young served notice of things to come in the Spartans first home game this spring, when he ripped a three-run double in the first inning to spark a 4-1 win over Lawrence.
“That boosted my confidence a lot,” he said.
Giallella agreed, saying “Of course it would. Any sport, but baseball in particular, you need that confidence to be able to perform at this level and be successful at it. And this being his second sport, it means that much more to be able to have success early.”
Young, who is built rock solid, says he tries to work on baseball on the side whenever he can. His goals were modest entering the season, and he has met them.
“I just wanted to come out and help the team any way possible,” he said. “I wanted to get my hits, work in the field, try not to drop any balls and that’s about it.”
Giallella has admired what Cody has done, and considers him a team leader in his own way.
“A lot of his leading is done through is actions, he’s not a big emotional guy,” the Chef said. “But if he says something, people are gonna listen.”
The bottom line is, while Young wants to win, there is little pressure on him since his future lies elsewhere. It has made for a fun spring.
“If you can play two sports and play them at a high level,” Giallella said, “and at the end of the day say ‘This is my way to go out’ and just go out and have fun and enjoy it and be competitive, I think a lot of people would take that.”
Young has taken it with pleasure.