Max Homick has a split personality on the baseball field.
When he plays for Rancho Bernardo (San Diego, Calif.) in the spring, he is strictly a left-hander. However, when he plays travel ball each summer with the powerful ABD Bulldogs, he might be left-handed one day and right-handed the next. In fact, he conceivably could throw both ways in the same game.
Because of his gifted ambidexterity, the high school junior owns four gloves – left-handed ones for pitching, playing first base and the outfield and a right-handed one for playing the infield.
"We’re trying to develop him into a great player and not a sideshow," says veteran Rancho Bernardo coach Sam Blalock, who has turned out his share of major leaguers.
"He’s still a young kid. He can play first, outfield or be a left-handed pitcher. I don’t see him being a right-handed third baseman, so why try it? I think it’s going to inhibit him from getting better. We’re just trying to make him keep his feet on the ground."
Mike Spiers, who directs the national-champion ABD Academy program, encourages Homick to throw right-handed at times because (1) he believes it helps save wear and tear on his left arm and (2) "he’s got a very strong right arm."
Meanwhile, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Homick is obedient to both coaches during their season.
Homick carries a 3.4 GPA and already has committed to the University of San Diego. Also a pro prospect, he says that Blalock "thinks my best potential is being a left-handed guy. He has a lot of experience and is a great coach, so I’m going to work as hard as I can and be left-handed."
He adds, however, that during the summer he could "have some fun with it (throwing right-handed) if I’m asked to do it. If my (left) arm would get hurt I could throw right-handed."
Thus far this spring Homick is batting a solid .382 while playing the outfield and pitching. He has driven in 12 runs on 13 hits, scored 14 times, walked six times and slammed two home runs.
On the mound, Homick, who touches 90 miles per hour, has compiled a 2-1 record with a 2.41 ERA. In 20.3 innings, he has struck out 19 and walked six.
One of his secrets is that he, obviously, was born with outstanding hand-eye coordination. His mother, Diva Ham, recalled, "When he was 18 months old, we had a little hoop. We would all go into the garage and watch Max sink balls into the hoop until he couldn’t lift his arms. He was our entertainment.
"We were at a park one day when he was about three. We were throwing the ball and he was swinging his bat. An older man walked by and said, ‘That’s a big-league swing. I used to play pro baseball.’ We always laughed (about his comment).
"He started writing right-handed, but he continued to play certain sports in a combination of right- and left-handed."
Homick’s first organized sport actually was hockey (he played from age three until he was a freshman) and he always played left-handed. He began playing Little League baseball at age 11, but not until the end of the season did his mother realize, "He had been playing the whole year right-handed. We decided that maybe he needed another glove."
Max points out, "I just remember doing everything with both hands." He made the Rancho Bernardo varsity as a freshman, but midway through the season he was sent to the JV team, because as Blalock explained, "It kind of wore on him."
After batting less than .200 as a freshman, Homick averaged a superb .404 with four home runs and nine doubles as a sophomore center fielder.
"I played all three outfield positions (as a sophomore)," Homick said. "I matured and kind of broke out. I started all the games. I consider myself a gap-to-gap hitter. I hit a couple of home runs, but I like to get a lot of doubles and hit a lot of line drives."
"He shows flashes of power, but he has some inconsistencies," Blalock points out. "He started out batting No. 2 (this spring), but then we dropped him to No. 6."
Because of his versatility, Homick isn’t even sure which position is best suited for him. He says, "I’ll pitch, play the outfield and first base as long as I can until somebody tells me what (specifically) to do. I really want to play Major League baseball."
Meanwhile, Spiers continues to make the pot boil.
He says, "I think he looks more natural and gets more on his throws right-handed. He’s got a very strong right arm. Left-handed he throws well, but he doesn’t look clean. We’ll probably pitch him from the right side (this summer) and see how he looks."