When Academics Plus’ Coach Steven Tew took over as the baseball coach this year, he heard about a few of the players who could play. Because the Falcons didn’t field a team last year, this year’s team is comprised of mainly players who have never played or played very little. So, he was ecstatic when he saw junior Michael Haug in practice last fall.
“I had been told by Coach (John) Harrison (athletic director) that a few of the guys had played with the Maumelle Bulldogs,” Tew said. “When Michael showed up, I could tell he had skills and also how he handled himself that he could play.”
Haug played with the Maumelle Bulldog 13-year-old team that won the World Series in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Haug’s experience and also playing since he was six has been beneficial to Tew since he is teaching the game to some of the players.
“When he sees someone is not focusing, he’ll get their attention,” Tew said. “He is extremely coachable and is always looking you in the eye and saying yes sir and no sir. He also works hard and can play any position which is a good option.”
Haug says he started playing baseball because all of his friends played. His dad and a friend’s dad coached his team when he was growing up. He started out as an infielder but added pitching to his repertoire after seeing the big-league pitchers on T.V.
“They were pitching really fast, and I told my Dad I wanted to do that,” Haug said. “He showed me how to throw the curveball. My dad practiced with me all the time.”
Haug relishes his role on the team and knows the other guys look up to him. He doesn’t mind being one of the leaders of the team.
“Our team has a lot of first timers,” he said. “Will Redwine and I played on that Bulldog team and played most of our lives. The other guys look up to us, and we show them what to do.”
The ultimate team player, Haug played catcher the first few games for the Falcons. A utility infield player, that is a position he had never played. He didn’t mind it but says his knees hurt the first few times. However teammate Paul Sheesley, who has played there, moved to that position, and Tew plans on using Haug in the infield particularly at shortstop.
“I wanted to see if Michael could and how he would respond,” Tew said. “He did a great job. I grew up with Coach (Denny) McCrotty (former and well-respected Russellville coach), and the infielders played all positions. I will use him wherever I can. He’ll start off with shortstop and maybe move to third.”
Haug leads the team in batting percentage with a .600 on his 3-of-5 performance with two RBI’s and also a double. Although he is right-handed, when he was young, he picked up the bat and started batting left-handed. Because he is a lefty, he doesn’t see a lot of good pitches.
“He gets walked a lot because the pitchers aren’t used to throwing to left-handers,” Tew said. “He is the only guy who when he has three balls and no strikes gets the green light.”