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Baseball now Sharpley's sole focus
01/13/2011 10:00 AM ET
For Evan Sharpley, the whole concept of an "offseason" has taken some getting used to.

The 24-year-old Seattle Mariners prospect excelled on both the gridiron and the diamond while attending Notre Dame, backing up quarterback Jimmy Clausen in the fall and manning first base in the spring. He holds the distinction of being the first Fighting Irish athlete to throw multiple touchdown passes and hit multiple home runs in the same academic year.

The Mariners made Sharpley their 50th-round Draft pick in 2009 and, after making his professional debut with the Arizona League-champion Mariners, he returned to Notre Dame for his fifth and final season as a member of the football team. But with that chapter of his life behind him, his athletic pursuits are focused solely on baseball.

"This has been the first fall since the third grade that I haven't been playing football, so I have more time to devote to getting ready for the baseball season," Sharpley said from his hometown of Marshall, Mich. "I've been spending a lot of time in the weight room and the batting cages as well as working on my defense and agility.

"It's also been great spending more time with my family. This is the first time in five years that I've been home at this time of year."


Nonetheless, it's been tough to say goodbye to his football career.

"It's like a relationship," he said. "If you date someone for three or four years and then they're gone, it's tough. It's a chapter in my life I'll look back on with fondness, but there are different things going on now."

In addition to an increased dedication to his baseball regimen, Sharpley has the time to pursue non-athletic endeavors. Already a licensed teacher, he is working toward a master's degree by taking online classes through the University of Phoenix. That work is being supplemented with more hands-on experience, as he is working with a youth program at the church that he attended growing up.

"I've always had a passion to work with kids, so it's been awesome to get the chance to build relationships with them," Sharpley said.

Much of the relationship-building is done in the gym, where Sharpley works out with local high school students four to five days a week.

"I'm interested in talking with these kids about faith and their spiritual lives, but it helps to have something to connect to physically as well. ... I think it's such a blessing that I've been given a platform to talk to these kids," he said.

The essence of Sharpley's message to the youth he works with is "concentrate on what you can control and let God take care of the rest." It's a philosophy that is easily applicable to the world of Minor League baseball, as dealing with the season's relentless grind requires a realistic and proactive mental approach.

"Growing up, you really only see the glamorous side of professional baseball," Sharpley said. "But from the mental point of view, it's tough. You're doing the same thing every day and you have to train yourself to find new ways to get better on a daily basis. In Everett last year, I think we did a fantastic job when it came to approaching each day with a renewed sense of purpose. ... We had a great set of leaders who were able to keep the players accountable."

Sharpley was one of the AquaSox players who strove to do just that.

"I think with my background playing quarterback for Notre Dame, it made it easier for me to assume a leadership role on the team," he said. "It wasn't about how I was playing, just that my teammates could count on me to be there for them. I think every team needs that."

Sharpley now has two short-season campaigns -- and two championships -- on his baseball resume. And this year, he may get the chance to play his first full season. But outside of saying that he'd like to "win another championship," the former two-sport star isn't setting any specific goals.

"I'm going to put in all the necessary work, but baseball is just one of those sports. Some nights you see the ball awesome and get three or four hits, other nights it just doesn't go that way," he said. "In baseball, things have a way of evening themselves out.

"I'm going to control the things I can and let the rest take care of itself."



This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.