Boise State redshirt freshman linebacker Joey Martarano hopes to balance football and baseball until it’s clear which one is his future.
Martarano spent part of this summer training with the Chicago Cubs organization in Mesa, Ariz. He appeared in four rookie league games.
“I really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Martarano said Friday on the first day of the Broncos’ fall camp. “I want to balance it through and keep both options open and whatever’s my best chance to make it to the pros, that’s what I’ll do.”
Martarano was a football, baseball and basketball star at Fruitland High. The power-hitting corner infielder slipped to the 13th round of the MLB draft in 2013 in part because he had committed to play for the Broncos. He turned down the Phillies’ $100,000 offer.
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Martarano could not play baseball last summer, he said, because of Boise State’s academic and training bridge program for incoming freshmen. With that obligation gone this year, he spoke to several baseball teams and the Cubs selected him in the 22nd round. They gave him a similar contract to the one offered by the Phillies, according to the family.
“I knew there were a couple teams interested,” Martarano said. “I didn’t really know what they’d do because it’s so tough to take a shot on me, not playing baseball for a year. But I was kind of keeping in touch with the Cubs. I’m glad it worked out since their (short-season Class A) team is in Boise.”
Martarano missed baseball, he said, and was able to shake off the rust in Arizona. He was 2-for-13 in limited league play. He worked on baseball most of the day but also watched football video and did football workouts in the weight room. Much of his game action came in scrimmages.
“The season was just getting rolling once I left,” he said.
He doesn’t plan to work on baseball at all until after the football season ends. He won’t play baseball again until next summer.
“Hopefully next year I can go down to Arizona just for a little bit and come back and play in Boise (for the Hawks) and do football workouts, too,” he said.
On the gridiron, Martarano is stuck behind senior Blake Renaud and sophomore Tanner Vallejo at middle linebacker. He likely will contribute on special teams and at fullback, though.
“If (fullback) is the way to get on the field, I’ll do it,” he said. “I think they’re doing the best they can to get me on the field.”
Martarano (6-foot-3, 234 pounds) said he’s more comfortable in the Broncos’ defense after his redshirt year.
“I feel like I progressed a lot,” he said. “Last year, coming in from 3A in Idaho, we didn’t have as much detail in our defense. That redshirt year was good to get the detail down. This year I’m feeling good.”
Said linebackers coach Andy Avalos: “When he came back, he jumped right back into it. He didn’t miss a beat. He was in the film room more than the other guys to make sure he was ready to go. Given what he did this summer, the opportunities he had, to come back and jump back in there and be where he’s at right now, I’m pretty fired up.”
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