Maese's road to pitching paved with tough decisions

 DUNEDIN, FL - March 6, 2017 - Blue Jays prospect Justin Maese is seen at Bobby Maddicks Field for Spring training camp. Maese was a multi-sport athlete in high school and chose to pursue his love for baseball over football. (Matt Teague, photo)

By: Matt Teague

Canadian Baseball Network

DUNEDIN, Fla.— Blue Jays prospect Justin Maese has a cannon for an arm, but like many multi-sport athletes growing up he had to decide how best to use his skill set.

He had both his baseball and football jerseys retired at Ysela high school in El Paso Texas, but in his own mind, the choice was simple: baseball

At just 18 and in his first professional season, in the Gulf Coast League, Maese pitched 35.2 innings after draft day with an impressive 1.01 earned-run average, helping him take the leap from everyday prospect to a pitcher worth following - and confirming which sport he should aim to pursue.

 “My focus growing up was more baseball as my family is a huge baseball family and football was more of a secondary sport for me,” Maese said, fresh off a morning workout with the Toronto Blue Jays at the Bobby Mattick Training Center. “My first love was baseball and I was doing great playing football, but I had to tell myself, ‘I’m going to go a different route.’ When I had the chance to get drafted I took it.”

The Blue Jays drafted him in the third round of the amateur draft in 2015.

Although he ultimately chose to chase his dream of becoming a professional baseball player, his experience playing quarterback in high school has helped him master his craft on the mound and develop his mechanics as a sinkerball pitcher.

“Since I am a sinkerball pitcher, my motion is kind of the same as throwing a football because I finish with my wrist turned,” Maese said.

Maese’s love for athletics is profound, and although he is happy with where he is at this point in his career, he certainly misses his time on the gridiron.

“I have no regrets about that but I just miss it like crazy,” he said. “The adrenaline you get is completely different and I would do anything to play another game.”