Provo • Circle March 23, 2019, on your calendars, BYU football and baseball fans.
That’s the day BYU will hold its spring football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium. It’s also the day that BYU’s baseball team is scheduled to play Portland up the road at Miller Park.
There’s a possibility that freshman quarterback/outfielder Jaren Hall could play in both games, perhaps duplicating feats pulled off by past Cougar QBs Jim McMahon and Ryan Hancock.
“Yeah, I can see something like that happening,” Hall said Monday before practicing with the BYU baseball team, which opens its season Friday against Northwestern in Mesa, Ariz. “I am not exactly sure how the schedule will work out, but that would be a great day — play a game of baseball, and then hop over to the football field, just across the street.”
First pitch at Miller Park is set for 1 p.m.; Officials haven’t announced a time for the spring game, but they typically begin around 11 a.m.
It won’t be the first time that the 6-foot-1, 210-pound returned missionary who starred in three sports — add basketball — at nearby Maple Mountain High does something historic in a BYU uniform. Hall became the first African-American to take snaps at quarterback for BYU last fall when the Cougars played at UMass.
He played in just one other football game last fall, meaning he can take advantage of the NCAA’s new redshirt rule and call the 2018 season his redshirt year because he didn’t participate in more than four contests. So he’s a freshman in both sports, for the time being.
As for baseball, Hall said it has always been the plan to play both since he had a .345 batting average with five homers, 24 RBIs and 13 stolen bases his senior season at Maple Mountain. He was recruited more heavily in football, where he was a two-time Salt Lake Tribune all-stater and threw for 5,109 yards and 52 touchdowns in three seasons.
The scholarship he is on counts against the football program’s limit, per NCAA rules.
ABOUT JAREN HALL
• Three-sport star at Mapleton’s Maple Mountain High served a church mission to Roseville, Calif., before enrolling at BYU last fall
• Became the first African-American to take snaps as a quarterback at BYU last November at UMass, ran three times for six yards but did not attempt a pass
• Will play in the outfield, and perhaps as a designated hitter and runner, on BYU’s baseball team this spring, having hit .345 with five home runs, 24 RBIs and 13 stolen bases his senior season at Maple Mountain
BYU football coach Kalani Sitake “was fully supportive of it,” said Hall, son of former BYU running back Kalin Hall. “It was part of my recruiting process in high school. It was a package deal that I would play baseball as well as football. So, he has always been all for it.”
Baseball coach Mike Littlewood was skeptical, until he watched Hall in a tryout and then saw him hit home runs in an intrasquad game in St. George last month.
“We have been talking about it for a year now,” Littlewood said Monday. “I thought he would come out in January, play for two or three weeks, realize he was overmatched and try to work on his game to come back next year. But from Day One, he squared the ball up.”
Littlewood, who had BYU tight end Matt Bushman on his roster two years ago, said Hall could develop into a starter if he got enough at-bats to become more seasoned at the plate.
“He’s been that good and refined,” Littlewood said. “He has a ways to go, but we’re really excited about what he’s going to bring to the table. ... he will be fun to watch this year.”
Coincidentally, Hall’s repetitions in spring football practice, which begins March 4, will increase because starting quarterback Zach Wilson won’t throw in camp due to having shoulder surgery last month. Passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick said last week that Hall’s priority will be football, but he doesn’t expect him to have to miss much baseball at all because the baseball team will be home most of March.
“I love it, I encourage it,” Roderick said. “I think baseball is great, especially for quarterbacks. In baseball, when you are pitching and batting, there is nowhere to hide. It is a great test of mental toughness and competitiveness, and I think it transfers over to playing quarterback. I love the fact that he is doing it and it is not going to interfere with football.”
Hall said he is “trying to create my own path,” but acknowledged he has followed Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray’s decision. The former Oklahoma quarterback announced Monday that he would pursue a career in the NFL after the Oakland A’s gave him a $4.66 millions signing bonus as the ninth-overall pick in last June’s Major League draft.
Both sports were his “first love” when Hall was little.
“In high school, and as I got older, football became my love as my recruitment took off for that,” he said. “But as I look at it, they go together like two peas in a pod, football and baseball.”
And maybe, next month, they’ll go together on the same day.