Juggling Sports With Gusto

By Emily Correia
Special to GoHolyCross.com

Juggling is an art that almost anyone with three tennis balls and some free time to watch a YouTube tutorial can master. However, if you want to try juggling an economics text book, a hockey stick, a baseball glove and your social life, the best person to call for advice is Holy Cross’ own sophomore pitcher and forward Sean Gustin (Stoneham, Mass.).

During his two years at Holy Cross, Gustin has been a member of the men’s ice hockey and baseball teams. This year in particular, Gustin has become an integral cog in the works for both teams. This season, Gustin played in 33 games as a forward on the ice for head coach Paul Pearl. He scored a career-high five goals and posted five assists, including the first assist of his career. Gustin also has played in 17 games on the mound in 16.2 innings of relief for head coach Greg DiCenzo. Gustin struck out the first collegiate batter he faced during his freshman season and has earned a vital role out of the pen coming into clutch innings for the Crusaders.

Both DiCenzo and Pearl are no strangers to the world of two-sport athleticism. DiCenzo was a member of the St. Lawrence baseball, football and soccer teams during his tenure at the university. Pearl, like Gustin, was a member of the baseball and the men’s ice hockey teams during his four years at Holy Cross. Both coaches were standout athletes for their schools, and Pearl has even coached both Crusader teams during his time as a coach here. Pearl and DiCenzo agree that the life of a two-sport athlete today is harder than when they were playing. “For Sean, it’s like double duty all the time, it’s really difficult,” Pearl noted.

Pearl went on that when he played, the team had real games during the fall before he would switch to hockey until February when the seasons changed over to spring in time for baseball again. Gustin, however, has not been afforded the luxury of two completely separate seasons. When the end of February rolls around and the time comes for the baseball team to take the field down south for opening weekend, Gustin is still in his regular-season for hockey. This year, Gustin joined the baseball team for a weekend series at No. 4 Mississippi State, came home and dove right into the regular-season finale weekend of Atlantic Hockey play. Gustin stayed in Worcester for the game against Army on Friday night before flying out early Saturday morning to meet the baseball team in South Carolina. Gustin stayed with baseball for the four-game series at Charleston Southern before returning home in time for hockey on Tuesday to prepare for the Atlantic Hockey first round series against RIT. It takes a lot of passion and hard work to be able to make this schedule work. “For a guy like Gus, he’s had to work extremely hard, maybe even harder than the next guy,” DiCenzo remarked.

Gustin describes his normal day as practices and lifts with one team and then individual work for the other. Especially during hockey season, Gustin needs to work in throwing a bullpen with a teammate in addition to his normal hockey practices. Gustin, DiCenzo and Pearl all agree that being a pitcher is part of what helps him to balance the two seasons. “Being a pitcher really helps him because he can throw and play catch with his teammates away from the field and behind the scenes to prepare himself for the baseball season while he still has his eyes on winning an Atlantic Hockey championship,” DiCenzo reasoned. “What’s fortunate and makes it doable for him is that he’s a pitcher,” concurred Pearl. “I allow him to pick his spots and he’s been really good at that, you know when to do it and when not to.”

“He’s a great athlete as it is, so he’s able to do this,” Pearl mentioned. “But I don’t care how good of an athlete you are, in order to do both hockey and baseball each team has gotta give and take a little bit so the kid can do some training with the other sport during their season. It’s going to be interesting because he is really good.” The two coaches both take pride in their continued relationship that really allows for Gustin to get the most out of being in the hockey lineup every game, while still being available for Coach DiCenzo from the bullpen. “As he becomes a more integral part of each team it becomes more difficult too, because each team wants him to play,” Pearl reflected. “Luckily, Coach D and I are good buddies and we’ve figured it out.” DiCenzo agreed, saying, “Having a relationship with the hockey staff like we do is really the only way that we can make it work for the athlete so that they can be ultra successful in the classroom, on the field and everywhere else.”

“I hope he gains some acclaim not just here on campus,” Pearl recollected. “People should know about this because I think it’s a really big deal, it’s not easy to do this, it’s not easy at all. He’s also a great student to go along with his achievements.” As an economics major, Gustin has boasted a cumulative 3.60 GPA over his three semesters at Holy Cross. Gustin is the only member of the men’s ice hockey team who can claim the acclamation of making both Atlantic Hockey All-Academic team honors as well as earning Patriot League Honor Roll accolades. “Holy Cross is no academic slouch,” Gustin commented. “Playing two sports is certainly hard. School combined with hockey and baseball obviously appears overwhelming, even crazy, to many people.” Gustin attributes his successes in the classroom, on the ice and on the mound thus far to his time-management and ability to structure his life. “Ever since I can remember I have been an extremely organized person and manage my time well,” Gustin shared. “There are times when I have to make sacrifices, but I know that if I keep up my hard work and stay determined, both academically and athletically, it will all pay off.” Gustin’s hard work is noticed by his teammates as well as his coaches. “Getting to know Sean, I have learned that he contains a work ethic that resembles professional athletes and is one of the few people that could succeed in two major sports,” baseball teammate Bobby Indeglia (North Kingstown, R.I.) stated.

“He’s here with us on the bus ride checking box scores to see how his other team is doing and I’m sure it’s the same way when he’s on the baseball trip looking at hockey,” Pearl commented on Gustin’s loyalty to being a part of both teams. That loyalty isn’t just noticed by the coaches, but by his friends and teammates as well. Roommate and ice hockey teammate Jake Bolton (Ellington, Conn.) noted that, “Seeing how hard Gus works on the ice one night, then seeing him take that intensity to the mound for an entirely different sport without slowing down is incredible.” Bolton’s sentiments are echoed by Indeglia. “We don't get the luxury of having Sean on our team the entire year but when he is with us he works harder than just about everyone there,” Indeglia shared. “The amount of intensity and competitiveness he brings to the yard and on the rink is unparalleled and doesn't go unnoticed.” Pearl added, “It’s a hard position to put a kid in, but I think Sean has done as well with it as you possibly can do, and I think he’ll continue to do so.”

Each team knows that they are fortunate to have a two-sport athlete as loyal and committed to both programs as Gustin. “It's truly a blessing to watch Sean play hockey and then come play baseball with us,” Indeglia continued. “The amount of work and effort he puts in to be an integral part of both teams is spectacular.” The decision to pick Holy Cross over other schools came down to this allegiance to both sports. “Being able to play for two teams that are successful and have great coaches is one of the main reasons I chose to come here,” Gustin shared. “Additionally, though, what makes me know I truly made the right decision is the guys, on both teams, that I sit beside in the locker room and go to battle with each and every day.”

“The most rewarding part about being a part of two teams is the camaraderie that comes from building life-long relationships with guys that I can call my brothers,” Gustin believes. “I know there is no other group of guys that play with more heart and grit, and I'm proud to be with them.” The teams acknowledge this relationship as well. “The best part about having Sean playing hockey and playing baseball is the relationships we have been able to develop with the hockey team,” shared Indeglia. “We all try and get up to every home game in support of Sean and his teammates.” If you ever come out to a baseball game, you’ll find the hockey team returning the favor. The team comes out to show its support for the baseball program, especially when their own teammate is on the mound. “If there’s a chance Gus is pitching, he’ll shoot me a text before the game and we’ll all head down,” Bolton added. “The fellas don’t miss a pitch when Gus is on the mound.”