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Sometimes baseball beats out hockey - even in Sudbury
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Scooter Rienguette loves his hockey. He just sees greater opportunities in baseball.

The product of the Nickel City AAA Sons system and offensive sparkplug for the city champion St Charles Cardinals boys’ hockey team is expected to confirm, in the coming weeks, where exactly he will be taking his talents in the fall.

While the final destination might be unknown, the fact that it will be in the lands of the bats and the balls, south of the border, and not the bodychecks and puck battles of the Canadian landscape is all but a given, at this point.

Like most athletic youth in these parts, hockey would have a clear head start in the Rienguette household. “I started it earlier, at the age of three or four, and only started baseball at eight or nine,” he said recently. “I always played (hockey) a year up. I remember going to tournaments, playing mini sticks in the hallways, having those close games.”

In fact, etched in his mind is a key marker that easily could have formed the foundation of a playing career that extended beyond high school. “It was at the Silver Stick, either triple OT or quadruple OT and we went to two on two and it was kind of like a Bobby Orr goal, where I fell when I scored,” Rienguette reminisced.

“That was the only goal I remembered for the longest time.”

Even as he was introduced to baseball, the 18 year old smaller than average pitcher who has developed a well-deserved reputation for his tenacity on the mound, a bulldog approach which his teammates adore, did not immediately flip the script on his sport of choice.

“My first year was what I would say was a fun year, just to see if I liked baseball or not,” said Rienguette. “Then I started to think I was getting better at baseball and started liking it the same, if not more. Whichever sport you think you’re better at, that’s kind of where you are going to veer towards.”

“I just kept getting better and better and decided to put almost all my time into baseball and play high school hockey instead.”

Given his showing this past year on the ice, there has definitely been some interest demonstrated on the part of junior hockey programs, locally and elsewhere. But to his credit, Rienguette simply does not see the athlete that he is as being favoured by the game that he first loved.

“I am more of a rotational sport type of game,” he explained. “In baseball, everything is rotational: hitting, throwing, pitching. I’m very strong with my rotation, being able to turn and be quick through my core.”

This is not the case of a young prospect burned out by an over-exposure to hockey. Regardless of where he lands, one can expect Scooter Rienguette to still enjoy lacing up the skates from time to time.

“I definitely still love hockey and still love playing it,” he said. “Whenever I can get on the ice and just play hockey, I’m not going to say no.”

In fact, it would be silly to assume that second thoughts had not crossed his mind, especially given the love affair that Canadians share for the national winter sport. “I definitely thought about going back and playing NOJHL, but I am so invested in baseball, I don’t want to go back and change my path that I’ve kind of decided on.”

The focus, these days, remains on finding that opportunity where Rienguette will be able to both showcase his current skill-set and garner the development needed to continue to work his way up the echelons of baseball. He is not likely to blow you away, metaphorically or physically, when you watch him pitch or step into the batter’s box to face him.

“I plan to keep gaining velocity,” said the young man who has bumped up his pitch speed from 84-85 MPH a year ago to closer to 88 or so, these days, on a more consistent basis. “And I’m working more on my command, especially with my off-speed pitches,” he said. “If you miss your spot by an inch, that’s a base hit, a double, a triple, a home run.”

“If you hit your spot, that could be a strikeout – or it could still be a hit, just because the batter just beat you that time.”

In the end, when it comes to his greatest source of pride, Rienguette is not about to split hairs between baseball and hockey. “Just to be able to be a multi-sport athlete, to play all of these sports at a high level is something I am very proud of.”

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