By Preston Williams
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Ever heard of this kid named Sam Mulroy, who plays ball at Maret School in the District?
You pronounce it MUH-ray? I always thought it was like "merit." No, I've never heard of him.
Well, he catches and pitches and was an all-league baseball player in the Mid-Atlantic Conference this spring. He's played shortstop and in the outfield, too.
Big deal. It's a small school in a small league.
Maybe so, but he also was an all-league quarterback in the MAC, throwing for 1,500 yards and rushing for more than 1,000 yards.
So what? There were only five MAC quarterbacks to choose from. They had to honor somebody.
I guess. Anyway, Sam Mulroy throws a baseball right-handed. . . .
So do I.
. . . And he throws a football left-handed.
So do . . . huh?
Besides being a pretty good athlete recruited by colleges in two sports, Sam Mulroy might be the greatest parlor trick -- no, make that backyard trick -- in Washington area high school athletics.
"When he's doing something with his right hand, he looks natural, and when he's doing something with his left hand, he looks natural," said Maret baseball coach Antoine Williams, who taught Mulroy in physical education class eight years ago. "So I don't really think about it because nothing is awkward about his movements."
For reasons Mulroy can't explain and no longer questions, this sturdy 6-foot, 195-pounder throws righty in baseball, lefty in football and observers for a loop when they witness his unusual yet enviable skill for the first time.
In the spring, a football recruiter from a division I-AA college visited Maret to speak with Coach Mike Engelberg about Mulroy. The college coach mentioned that he was going to stop by Mulroy's baseball game that day. "He'll be throwing right-handed," informed Engelberg, who spent the next 10 minutes scraping the coach's jaw off the floor.
"Is that the same kid who played shortstop?" a rival baseball and football coach, eyeing the Frogs' quarterback, asked a Maret coach last season. "I could have sworn he was a right-hander."
Well, yes, he is in baseball, but. . . .
"There are other coaches in the league who don't even realize it's the same kid," Engelberg said.
So what to make of this ambidextrous, country music-loving, choir-singing, sophisticated-palated, ex-piano-playing, potentially Ivy League-bound, drug- and alcohol-denouncing, three-sport standout from Bethesda, who in football kicks off with his right foot, can punt with either foot and make option pitches with either hand; who shakes, bats, pitches, golfs and waves with his right hand, but writes, eats, shaves, brushes his teeth, shoots baskets, flips coins, rolls dice and throws a Frisbee with his left hand?
"I kind of accepted it a little while ago. Yeah, it's weird, but it's just what I do, and I don't really think about it now," the terminally humble Mulroy said one day last week in the coaches' office after practice. "I can't throw a football right-handed, but I can throw a baseball [with either hand]. So I really don't know how to work it out, to be honest with you. It's just something crazy. I'm going to let it be how it is and not worry about it."
But you do, of course, like being able to do this?
"It's pretty cool," conceded Mulroy, who turns 18 next month and has decided to play college baseball, probably as a catcher, and to bypass offers in football, for which he is being recruited more as an athlete than as a quarterback.
When Mulroy played dodgeball as a kid, he would throw the bigger, heavier balls with his left hand and the smaller, lighter balls with his right. He can wink his right eye but not his left. He tried switch-hitting, but it didn't work out. In Mulroy's third sport, swimming, in which he holds three individual school records in the freestyle, he breathes on only his right side.
Should it come as any surprise that one of Mulroy's favorite movies is "The Prestige," which is about sleight-of-hand magicians?
His parents, Kevin Mulroy and Betty Sun, are right-handed, as is sister Julia, 12. Mulroy's mom chalks up his right-handed baseball tendencies to his learning that way as a toddler. It was years later, as he became interested in other sports, that they discovered he was more of a lefty. "Another parenting mistake," Sun jokes, knowing that her son's baseball stock would be higher if he batted and threw left-handed.
Regardless, the family was never compelled to try to unravel the mystery.
"It wasn't a lack of pride or curiosity," Sun said. "We were just going to let the kid be who he's going to be and just help him develop in as many ways as we could but with a minimal amount of analysis."
There's a lot for Mulroy's observers to figure out. His baseball roles, power-hitting catcher and closer, are an interesting combination, as are his favorite classes, chemistry and Spanish. He is considering studying both for a possible medical career in Latin America. His parents both work in publishing, but unlike his sister, he is not an avid reader.
Mulroy is the strongest player on the football team, unusual for a quarterback. He benches 250 pounds and is the second-fastest at 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
In baseball, his fastball tops out at 85 mph, thanks in part to a fresh right arm. He can get the ball to the plate with his left hand, but he does not have the same command or pop.
"Sam, why don't you play baseball lefty, too, and pitch both games of a doubleheader?" junior teammate Brian Pourciau once suggested to Mulroy, as have others.
"On a baseball field, I'll try to throw left-handed, and I look like a chicken with my head cut off," Maret senior Liam Duffy said. "He tries to throw a baseball left-handed and it's like on a frozen rope. By now, everybody's like, 'Oh yeah, that's Sam.' "
Varsity Letter is a weekly column about high school sports in the Washington area.