One week prior to his team’s first game, Holy Ghost Prep baseball coach Greg Olenski had not seen his starting second baseman or shortstop on the field. That’s because seniors Greg Sylvester and Colin Costello were in the playoffs for the Firebirds’ basketball and hockey teams, respectively, and not allowed to practice baseball.
When the basketball season ended for Sylvester, the 6-foot point guard and second baseman, on March 8, a 52-41 loss to Archbishop Wood in the PIAA state playoffs, he was ready to jump right into his next sport.
“Baseball has always been my main sport,” said Sylvester. “Toward the end of the [basketball] season, I’m like ‘I want baseball.’ I’m ready for it all the time.”
On the same night his high school basketball career ended, the Chestnut Hill College baseball commit told Olenski he was ready to trade in his sneakers for spikes and join the team after he missed tryouts.
“I remember him texting me, ‘I’ll be there [tomorrow],’ ” said Olenski.
While they are in season, athletes aren’t allowed to participate in other sports’ team practices and have to find time to practice on their own while spending more than 15 hours per week on their in-season sport. The 13 returning members of the baseball team are a close group and got together without the coaches to get in some extra work with Sylvester and Costello.
“It’s hard because we have practice every day, usually after school, and then I have all of my homework,” said Sylvester. “Whenever we didn’t have practice, I tried to get out and throw and get in the batting cages.”
Costello, a 5-foot-10 shortstop who will attempt to walk on for baseball at La Salle next year, had even less time to prepare than his double-play partner. The Firebirds’ hockey season ended at the hands of La Salle in the Flyers Cup semifinals, 5-4, on March 14. The baseball players watched the game on their bus ride to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for a preseason tuneup. Unlike Sylvester, Costello, a forward on the ice, took some time to relax prior to focusing on baseball before his first practice.
“The loss [to La Salle] was extremely tough,” said Costello. “I took a weekend off and hung out with the hockey team. I was ready to go by Monday.”
The two are able to slide right back into the lineup partly because as any good double-play tandem does, they have great chemistry. In the summer, Sylvester and Costello play together for their travel team, Miller Baseball, and got together four times a week to practice before their winter sport seasons started.
“We’re always on the same page,” said Costello. “We’ve played together for a while, and summer ball has a lot to do with that.”
In the age of athletes specializing in one sport, Olenski said that although he stopped playing other sports in his sophomore year to focus on baseball, playing two sports has benefits for athletes. Olenski graduated from Holy Ghost in 2011 as the career leader in hits, doubles, runs, RBIs and career batting average (.443), and went to Maryland before transferring to Delaware.
“You run the risk of burning out and plateauing,” said Olenski. “If you play other sports, you’re learning other skills. I want guys that can compete, and I’ve found that multiple-sport athletes are those guys. If I could have 10 of those guys on my team, I would love to have them.”
Despite the little time they had to get ready for their final baseball season, Sylvester and Costello said they have benefited from playing two sports all four years. Although he and Costello got a later start than their teammates, Sylvester said the team is ready for a big season.