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Baseball

Turner is Skipjacks’ Renaissance man
St. Michaels grad playing soccer, basketball and baseball

WYE MILLS – In an era when athletes begin to specialize at a very early age, Mike Turner is the Skipjacks’ Renaissance man. The three-sport star at St. Michaels High is once again balancing soccer, basketball and baseball at Chesapeake College.

"It’s not common," said Frank Szymanski, Chesapeake’s athletic director and head baseball coach, of Turner’s three-pronged athletic plan. "And he’s not just part of three teams – he’s had big impacts in all three sports. He was a goal-scorer in soccer, came in this year and played extremely well on the basketball team, and he established himself last spring as a standout in baseball."

While playing three sports at the collegiate level is no longer common, Turner said it was all part of the master plan.

"In my mind, I wanted to try to play all three sports at Chesapeake," said Turner. "I figured I did it all through high school, so I thought I could manage it here."

After playing on the college’s winless 2008 soccer team as a freshman, he was one of the keys to Chesapeake’s dramatic turnaround this past fall. He finished second on the team in goals (seven), assists (five), and points (19) as the Skipjacks went 8-5-1 to set a team record for winning percentage (.588). Chesapeake ended the regular season with five straight wins and a seven-game unbeaten streak, including victories over traditional powers Howard Community College and Montgomery College Rockville.

"It was a nice turnaround," Turner said of the 2009 soccer season. "We had kids who bought into what coach (first-year head coach Mike Moulton) was saying, we stuck together, and we competed with the best teams."

Turner joined the men’s basketball team in December after injuries and grade troubles thinned out the roster. He averaged 5.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and nearly 1.4 steals, which was second on the team.

"I didn’t know if he could play or not," said Reggie Williams, the former Georgetown all-American and NBA vet who just finished his first season as the Skipjacks’ head coach. "I had asked him one day in the weight room, and Coach (Ed) Baker and I had a talk with him, and he was there for the next game."

While joining the basketball team helped the program, it also helped Turner fill a void.

"It the beginning of basketball season, I kind of missed it," said Turner, who played a few basketball games as a freshman before deciding to concentrate on preparing for baseball. "I don’t like having a lot of time off. At St. Michaels, the playoffs for one season would run into preseason for the next sport – I probably only had two weeks off total my entire four years of high school."

Williams said Turner has the tools to have been an impact JuCo basketball player.

"If he practiced basketball every day he’d be a very good basketball player," said Williams. "He brought toughness and good rebounding for his size. He’s also a very decent shooter from 15 feet."

"It was fun," Turner said of playing for the 10-year NBA veteran. "I learned a lot from Coach Reggie."

While Turner has enjoyed success with the Skipjacks in soccer and basketball, baseball is his best sport. Last spring as a freshman, he played shortstop and hit .313 with 39 RBI and a 3.86 earned-run average in limited pitching appearances. His play in the field, at the plate and on the mound helped the Skipjacks win at least 30 games for a fifth straight season while finishing third in Region XX.

"Mike is a five-tool player – strong arm, speed, good hands, hits for power and hits for average," said Szymanski. "He does everything well and his baseball instincts are outstanding. He just knows the game."

Ironically, considering the impact he’s had on Chesapeake’s athletic program, the connection almost didn’t take place. It was only after Turner’s initial plan to attend University of Maryland Eastern Shore fell through that he turned to Chesapeake.

Szymanski said Chesapeake College assistant baseball coach Donnie Gowe played a key role in recruiting Turner once he became available.

"Coach Gowe was his assistant high school coach and summer league coach and was instrumental in bringing him here," said Szymanski.

"We (Turner and Gowe) kind of showed up at Chesapeake as a package deal," Turner said with a laugh. More seriously, he said, "It (Gowe’s presence) gave me someone to talk to who’s been there for me for a while."

Gowe said he "started coaching Mike when he was eight years old, and I have coached him either in the summer or in high school every year since he was eight."

"Mike has always – always – made good choices. He’s stayed on a good path," added Gowe. "And he’s always worked really hard – the first guy at practice and the last guy to leave. He lives near the ball field (in St. Michaels). If we didn’t have practice, he was at some other team’s practice. He would be at the park throwing a baseball off the back of the dugout and fielding it just on his own."

Like Szymanski, Gowe said Turner’s baseball knowledge has been a key to his success.

"Mike has always studied the game," said Gowe. "Last year, if it wasn’t his turn at bat, he was sitting next to me and talking about everything he was seeing the pitcher do. He constantly studies pitchers to pick up little things that will help him in his next at bat . . . something that can give him an advantage."

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