Ryan Hancock has had a busy spring. Take for instance the day a couple of weeks ago when the BYU football team was holding its intrasquad scrimmage in Cougar Stadium, and the BYU baseball team was playing Mesa State in a doubleheader at the baseball diamond.
No sooner did Hancock finish throwing two touchdown passes while completing 10-of-23 throws for 158 yards as a quarterback for the BYU offense than he looked both ways, crossed the street, and took the mound against Mesa State, where he got credit for a save as he faced five batters in the last inning and struck out two to preserve the Cougars' 4-1 win.
Hancock is BYU's answer to the way Bo Jackson used to be, and he wouldn't have it any other way. His idea of a good afternoon is throwing strikes. The sport doesn't matter. Just give him a target.
He came to BYU to see about becoming the next Ty Detmer and Jack Morris. Eight months into his freshman year and he's off to a good start. Coming out of the bullpen every time Coach Gary Pullins snaps his fingers, he's the baseball team's answer to Red Adair. And after the conclusion of spring football, he's No. 3 on the quarterback depth chart, behind Detmer and his incumbent backup, Joe Evans. Since both will be seniors, that puts Hancock, a redshirt freshman this fall, in prime position as Detmer's air-apparent for the 1992 season and beyond.
Hancock admits he could be in worse shape.
"In baseball, I'm doing everything I hoped to do - except I miss hitting," he says. "And in football, well, I came in hoping I could get a shot at starting a couple of years down the road. Now, if things go well, I could play three years."
At the crux of all this potential is Hancock's right arm. On sight it's a rather ordinary looking arm, but it has proven capable of throwing fastballs 93 miles
an hour, and putting enough velocity on a football to make wide receivers think about either wearing gloves or running longer routes.
Through 35 baseball games, Pullins has used the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Hancock exclusively out of the bullpen. "That way, he can help us almost every day," says the coach, who knows a 90-mph arm when he sees one. "We get in trouble, we send for him."
"You get a lot of reports about kids who can supposedly throw it 90," says Pullins. "Then you see one that's the genuine article. Ryan's legitimate. How fast is he? Fast enough that they don't hit it very often."
In the 25 innings he's pitched to date, Hancock has struck out 56 batters, which means he's getting slightly more than two strikeouts every inning. Some of the college hitters he's faced have swung on their third strike when the ball is already in the catcher's glove - so they can at least say they went down swinging.
"Somebody gets a hit off him and he's shocked," says Pullins.
Hancock has given up just 14 hits so far, although he has walked 21 batters. "He's just wild enough to keep you loose," grins Pullins.
Pullins thinks the baseball team will be fortunate to hang on to Hancock through his junior year, when he is likely to be taken high enough in the major league baseball draft that turning down the offer would be like saying no thanks to the keys to a Wells Fargo armored van.
In last summer's baseball draft, after Hancock graduated from Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, Calif., the California Angels selected him in the 13th round even though he'd already signed a football letter-of-intent with BYU. The Angels offered him $100,000 to sign, and told him it was fine with them if he played college football in the offseason.
Hancock turned them down on the grounds that there can be too much of a good thing, even football and baseball. "I would have been gone all the time," he says, "from school to the minors to school to the minors. I would have missed a lot of the fun of growing up."
He is as enamored of college football as he is baseball, and at least wants to see if he can follow in the footsteps of Detmer, Young, Bosco, McMahon and the rest. "I'd hate to have never taken the time to find out," he says.
If and/or when he ever has to choose between the two sports, he doesn't know what he'll do. In the meantime, he's not spending time worrying about it. He's just trying to keep the practice schedules straight, and remember which ball he has in his hand. If it's small and hard and he isn't wearing a helmet, he tries to make them not hit it. If it's oblong and grainy and it's hiked, he tries to hit them with it. As college educations go, they don't come much more well-rounded than this.