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High school baseball: Diamond dynamo: Orem's Goose Kallunki is great athlete, great person

Published: Thursday, April 10 2008 12:09 a.m. MDT

OREM — Goose Kallunki is well-known at Orem High School for his abilities on the basketball court.

But he's even more well-known for his talents on the baseball diamond.

Kallunki has been playing basketball for the Tigers since his freshman year. But when he graduates, it will be baseball he decides to focus on.

"He should," said Mike Conner, his basketball coach. "Have you seen him hit?"

Kallunki's skills on the basketball court are nothing short of impressive. He was a first-team All-Region 7 pick by the coaches. His own coach glows when speaking of him.

"He's just a great rebounder," Conner said. "He was our leading scorer for the year."

Nevertheless, Conner thinks Kallunki would be better served playing baseball.

"I'm serious. Have you seen him hit?" he said again.

Kallunki isn't deciding to play baseball, however, because his coach thinks he should do. Kallunki genuinely agrees.

"I just grew up playing it and I'm better at it," Kallunki said. "Everybody has to do a part. More so than other sports."

Kallunki was born in North Carolina, but moved to Utah when he was eight years old.

His father, Josh Kallunki, remembers a time when his son was about five and some family members wanted to play basketball. Kallunki refused to play though. According to his father, he just wanted to play baseball.

"He just had a lot of early success with it," his father said. "It's just a natural love for him. He started hitting when he was three and has just always loved it."

With the Tigers' basketball season having reached its conclusion, Kallunki is now focusing on the baseball season and getting ready to attend Utah Valley University in the fall, where he'll try to play as a non-scholarship player.

Gary Miner, Kallunki's baseball coach, is also impressed with his baseball abilities, saying that he expects Kallunki to get the key hit when it's needed. He did say, however, that Kallunki's desire to help the team in critical spots has caused him to get over-anxious at times.

"You saw that today," Miner said after Orem defeated Lone Peak 4-3 on March 18. "He just got a little too anxious."

With runners on first and second and nobody out and Lone Peak leading 3-2, Kallunki had a chance to drive in the tying run or even put the Tigers ahead. Instead, he swung at the first pitch, lofting it into right field for a lazy fly out. Still, Miner trusts Kallunki completely.

More impressive than Kallunki's athletic abilities, however, is his personality.

"I'm going to start to cry," Conner said. "I've been doing this for 26 years and he's one of my favorite kids I've ever had. He knows that. I love the kid. He's a great kid and even though he won't admit it, he's a better human being than he is a player."

Conner is most impressed with Kallunki's ability to always try his best.

"He comes to work every single day and works hard," Conner said. "He's a great competitor."

To Kallunki, working hard is the only option.

"I don't like to hang my head," he said. "I stand up tall."

Kallunki's father is equally impressed with his son's personality.

"He just loves everybody," his father said. "I don't know where he gets it. It's uncanny the way he is with his sisters. He will take them anywhere, do anything with them. He takes care of them like you wouldn't believe. He's probably the greatest kid any parent could ever ask for. I absolutely have no idea how I got so lucky to have a kid as good as he is. He's a great brother. He's a great son."

Josh Kallunki played high school basketball as well and even admits that a small part of him wishes he would choose that over baseball.

"I don't think he's scratched the surface of his potential and his ability to play," he said. "I think he's still got a couple inches of growth."

The younger Kallunki used to play basketball a lot with his father. But now they don't play so much.

"I beat him too much now," Goose Kallunki said with a grin.

Nevertheless, his father is supportive of whatever he wants to do.

"I love watching him play baseball," he said. "I have loved the whole baseball experience with him. I'm just really glad he's going to play something past high school. What dad wouldn't be?"

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