In our age of specialization, the two-sport high school athlete has become somewhat of a rarity.
Thomson High School will see a handful of two sporters graduate next week, and one of those is Anthony "Pooh" Erwin. Pooh played football for four years and baseball while a junior and senior.
I posed two questions to Pooh. I asked him why did he choose to play two major sports when so many guys were electing to settle for just one. I also asked him to share his thoughts on why he thought youngsters were finding themselves in only one sport.
"I feel like you might be losing out on a lot of high school if you don't play as much as you can," Pooh said. "Riding on only one sport leaves too few options for the future," he wisely pointed out.
"I got used to long, tough practices in football and coaches getting on me," he said. "When I decided to play baseball, I realized that football helped me get after it in baseball too.
"Too many times I think people get in a guy's ear and tell him he doesn't want to do all that work, so he plays just one sport," said Pooh. "A lot of times they say they need a job but still don't do anything when the season is over," he further surmised.
"The close knit atmosphere, getting to know guys like brothers, and just plain fun were also reasons for me to look to play year round," Pooh added.
When I reminded Pooh that he and a few of his classmates would be part of a very small group of athletes in the whole nation that could say they played for two hall of fame coaches in high school, he broke into a big grin.
"I can go places and tell everybody I'm a Holder/Welsh boy from Thomson," he said with great pride.
With that I asked the obvious, compare, or contrast, Coach Welsh and Coach Holder.
Pooh quickly declared that to compare them would be very easy.
"They both believe in long practices and making you do it until it is right, plus two more times," he said with the conviction of one speaking from personal experience.
"They care about the team, guys on the team, and they teach life lessons," he said. "They both have taught me a lot about myself and decision making."
Pooh told me a little of what I already knew, but I was surprised about part of his observation in contrasting Holder and Welsh.
"Coach Holder is passionate about winning, and he has a football attitude in baseball and is very intense. Coach Welsh operates more one-on-one and is a take it to the side kind of coach. He's a little more laid back than Coach Holder," he described.
Two recreation experiences when he was a youngster are among Pooh's many memorable sports events. He cites playing football for Coach Willie Williams' Rams and pitching for James' Auto with Bobby Hobbs as his coach.
"Coach Williams didn't know how to tape an ankle, and I hurt mine, so he wrapped it in duct tape. I was used to just outrunning guys, but I couldn't, so I had to run over two men for a touchdown," he said. I asked him if that could be described as a shot of confidence event for him in football, and he nodded affirmatively.
Pooh also insisted that I throw kudos to all of Thomson's assistant coaches on his behalf.
"With famous head coaches like we have, it can be easy to forget coaches like Willie Williams, Aaron Hall, Jason Osborne and Craig Chapman," he said. "I can remember Coach Curtis Williams asking me when I got to high school what was I gonna' do when the ball went flat. He was reminding me that there's more to life, and you can't play ball forever."
Anthony Erwin, Jr. was nicknamed "Pooh" by his mother Annie R. Bailey, when he was but a tyke. Everybody picked it up, and he's been Pooh ever since. He has been recruited to USC-Aiken by assistant coach Michael Holder, Terry's son, to play baseball. He plans to major in psychology.
"Their head coach, Coach Thomas, was looking for more speed, and I like their close knit atmosphere. They treated me like one of the team when I visited, and they have a new stadium," Pooh described the Pacer program. "When I get there I've got to improve mostly on my mental approach to the game and not just depend on raw ability."
I'll bet that he pulls from his experience as a Bulldog quarterback to help with that task.