Versatile freshman Haig juggles baseball, football

By Jason Grodsky

While Kyle Hudson has received much of the attention for being a two-sport athlete at Illinois, another multisport student is quietly playing a similar role in the same two sports.

Freshman Phil Haig made his debut on the pitching mound on April 7 at Indiana to become the second player on the team to throw on a football jersey in the fall and trade it in for a baseball uniform in the spring.

Haig made the transition from throwing a football as a redshirt freshman quarterback for Ron Zook’s squad in the fall, to throwing a baseball off the mound for Dan Hartleb’s team this spring.

“Throwing the ball is a little different (in each sport), but after awhile of doing it … you kind of get used to the change,” Haig said. “It normally takes about a week or so for me to adjust and get back in the swing of things when I switch sports.”

Haig has pitched in six games this year for the Illini, starting three, and the 6-foot-3, 205-pound left hander has struck out 13 batters in 16 innings pitched.

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    Originally Haig wasn’t planning on putting on one Illinois jersey at all, let alone two. The Inver Grove Heights, Minn., native had originally committed to play football at the University of Minnesota, but changed his mind to come to Illinois after former Illini recruit Clint Brewster chose to commit to Minnesota instead of coming to Illinois.

    But once Haig settled in at Illinois, he realized that playing two sports was a possibility.

    “Coming here, everything just kind of happened in a flash,” Haig said. “In the fall I concentrated on football and enjoyed it but wasn’t sure if I was going to play baseball. I talked to coach Hartleb right when I got back from winter break and he gave me a chance.”

    As it is for any two-sport athlete, the transition from one to the other took some time to get used to, but it was something Haig had a lot of experience with in high school.

    As a five-sport athlete at Henry Sibley High School, Haig earned 14 varsity letters while playing baseball, football, basketball, tennis and wrestling. He was an All-Classic Suburban Conference selection in all five sports.

    “I’ve always loved playing sports and when I was young my mom let me try whatever I wanted,” Haig said. “When I got to middle school I started to pick and choose because you can’t always play each one because of schedule conflicts, so I decided to play tennis and wrestling instead of hockey.

    “That worked well for a couple of years and then when I moved on to high school I decided on the sports I really wanted to play for the next four years, and baseball and football had always been my favorite two sports.”

    Haig’s athletic prowess is something that runs in his blood. His mom, Jennifer, played volleyball at Iowa State and his two sisters, Andrea, 24, and Joanna, 21, played college soccer, Andrea at Wayne State and Joanna at Louisville and as a member of the U.S. U-23 national team.

    His family heritage is something that Haig is proud of, and he credits his toughness to his sisters for helping him build character and getting him to where he is today.

    “Growing up, my sisters would always beat up on me and tag-team against me, so I have to give them some credit because it made me push myself and go hard and do my best,” he said.