Winston, Martarano face difficult decisions

Hueytown (Ala.) senior Jameis Winston (left) and Fruitland (Idaho) junior Joey Martarano have committed to D-I programs for football but are also potential early-round picks in the MLB Draft. Perfect Game, Shauna Martarano

Put a football and baseball in front of Jameis Winston and ask him to pick which one he’d rather have in his hand.

To the Hueytown (Ala.) senior, it’s an easy decision. And it’s clearly something he’s thought about before.

“I will just juggle them,” said Winston. “I pick both.”

It’s a fitting answer for the 6-foot-4, 195-pound superstar since he’s been juggling both football and baseball throughout his high school career. And he has committed to Florida State to play both sports.

“It’s a blessing that God gave me this talent,” he said. “To have an opportunity to play at a top level in football and baseball is something I am very grateful for.”

Top level might be an understatement — Winston is elite within the high school spectrum.

On the football field, he’s a dynamic, dual-threat quarterback who’s rated the nation’s No. 1 signal-caller in the ESPNU 150 and was co-MVP at the Elite 11 finals last summer. This season, he threw for 2,424 yards and 28 touchdowns with just two interceptions and ran for 1,063 yards and 15 scores to earn a spot on the ESPNHS All-American team and snag Gatorade State Player of the Year honors.

And on Thursday night, he played in the Under Armour All-America Game on ESPN. Winston was named game MVP after completing 8-of-9 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns in leading his squad to a 49-16 victory.

On the diamond, Winston is an electric pitcher and power-hitting shortstop/outfielder. Last spring, he went 8-3 with 93 strikeouts on the mound and batted .424 with seven homers.

“He is the complete package,” said Hueytown baseball coach Rick Patterson. “Being competitive is so big in high school sports, and Jameis has the desire to win in both sports. He is mentally and physically ready for anything.”

Choosing between baseball and football will become more difficult when the MLB Draft comes around in June. Winston is projected to be a high pick and could skip the college ranks for pro baseball.

“A lot of people ask me which sport I will choose,” he said. “I want to play both. I want to be the next two-sport pro athlete. I will see what happens with the draft. Then I will go from there. I’m not going to pretend that I know what I am going to do yet.”

Some 2,000 miles Northwest resides another two-sport phenom who, like Winston, is juggling baseball and football.

But Fruitland (Idaho) junior Joey Martarano still has time to make up his mind, even though it appears he has already chosen pigskin over the cowhide.

“I have a lot of people in my ear asking me which sport I am going to choose when I leave high school,” he said. “I love both sports. But right now I would probably pick football.”

Boise State likes that answer — the 6-3, 230-pounder has committed to play linebacker for the Broncos in 2013.

As a junior, Martarano shined for Fruitland as their starting quarterback by recording 1,003 passing yards, 791 rushing yards and 30 total touchdowns.

“His dream is to play football for Boise State, and I think that is probably the direction he will stay on,” Fruitland football coach Bruce Schlaich said. “I don’t see him wavering.”

Tell that to Nebraska and LSU football teams. The Cornhuskers lost Bubba Starling to the Kansas City Royals last year, while the Tigers saw Zach Lee sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“There is a lot of talk about me getting drafted and me possibly flipping to baseball,” Martarano said. “But right now I want to play football. So we will see what happens after the draft.”

His talent in baseball mirrors his accolades in football.

The third baseman earned a spot in the Area Code Baseball Games (though he couldn’t attend because of football) last summer thanks to a sophomore season in which he batted .475 with 16 homers and 50 RBIs to help Fruitland win the Class 3A state title.

“He is probably the best high school baseball player in the Northwest,” Fruitland baseball coach Russ Wright said. “He has a big ceiling in baseball. But he will take the path he wants to take.”

New draft rules may sway Winston and Martarano to stick to the college campuses of their choice.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams will face harsh penalties, including fines or loss of draft picks, for spending big in the draft and likely will no longer pay exorbitant sums to two-sport stars to convince them to give up their scholarship in another sport.

“That’s definitely something I will look at,” Winston said. “It really depends. But for me, in the end, money won’t be the reason why I choose one over the other.”

Martarano isn’t ready to look that far down the road.

“I am playing both of these sports for the love of each game,” he said. “Maybe if the money is right down the road I could choose baseball. But right now I am fully committed to finishing my high school career playing football and baseball. I can choose later.”

Let the juggling act continue.