By STEVE KRAH
Evan Sharpley played baseball and football at an elite level.
The Marshall, Mich., native represented Notre Dame on both the diamond and gridiron. The lefty-hitting corner infielder was good enough as a baseball player to be drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2009 and logged two seasons in M’s system and one more in independent pro baseball.
Before that, Sharpley was briefly a quarterback for the Fighting Irish, going under center for two games as the starter in 2007.
“I fell in love with the off-season,” says Sharpley. “I was the guy who was not doing to be outworked. I’m going to do one more rep than the guy I’m going up against. I always wanted to do more (than other ND quarterbacks).”
Along the way, he learned lessons about strength and conditioning and now he is passing that knowledge along to athletes and those interested in general fitness.
“I’ve been very blessed to see a large variety of training systems,” says Sharpley, who runs Sharpley Training in Elkhart with wife Jackie, the 2011 Miss Indiana. “I will pick and choose the facets that I really think are beneficial.”
Evan Sharpley, 30, pulls from his football and baseball backgrounds and morphs aspects of training for both. As a football player, he focused on pure strength with deadlifts, squats, bench presses and power cleans. On the baseball side, there was plenty of movement with plyometrics, box jumps, medicine balls, single-arm stability exercises and dumbbells in the mix.
Athletes — in either private or small group settings — are put through performance-based workouts that are customized to their needs. They do things to improve speed and agility, vertical leap and hand-eye coordination as well as conditioning and nutrition. All plans are tracked through a software system and modifications are made when necessary.
It also becomes very competitive and they’re always trying to do better than others in their group.
Athletes and general fitness clients alike get to use sleds, squat, deadlift, jump and throw.
“We use a lot of different methods,” says Sharpley. “There’s just a lot of movement. That’s what we were made to do. We were made to move. That we try to do here is build proper movement systems and then add speed and strength. It’s about creating that explosive strength.”
Sharpley coaches many high school quarterbacks in the Michiana area and had at least one head-to-head match-up every Friday night last fall.
In training baseball players of all ages, he starts with a base level evaluation across the board with hitting, fielding and throwing.
Sharpley knows that today’s athletes are very visual so hitters are gauged with slow motion video analysis.
“Once the athlete knows what it looks like and how they’re suppose to move, we can come up with the verbal cues to make those adjustments,” says Sharpley. “I’m not at every game or practice, but they can hear those cues in their head.
“The self-coaching part is extremely important. They’re getting the work in here and that’s great. But that’s only a small portion of how they get better. They need to do things on their own. They need to be able to replicate when there’s is not someone watching their swing.”
Hitters are taught to swing hard and with a slight upper cut while applying the proper techniques.
“Gone are the days of hitting down and through the ball,” says Sharpley, noting that Hall of Famer Ted Williams cites the same philosophy in his book on hitting.
When Sharpley was 9 and growing up in Marshall (near Battle Creek), father Tom (who is now in his second season as head baseball coach at Marshall High School) started a travel baseball team called the Marshall BattleKids (later known as the Mid-Michigan Tigers). When Evan was older, he played a few travel seasons and got major college exposure with the Detroit area-based Concealed Security Dodgers.
One of Tom Sharpley’s travel players was Josh Collmenter, who went on to pitch for the South Bend Silver Hawks and is now in the majors.
Sharpley’s recruitment to Notre Dame actually started in baseball. Paul Mainieri, the head baseball coach at ND for his freshmen season before leaving for Louisiana State University, alerted the football program about Evan and the possibility of playing both sports.
Evan pulled off the double (something younger brother Ryan would also do with the Irish), but it was not easy.
Sharpley calls is a “juggling act.”
“It’s not like I stepped on campus and knew what I was doing,” says Sharpley of balancing academics, baseball and football as well as his social and spiritual lives. “There were certainly some growing pains. It took two years to find a structure that worked for me.
“Whether you are the starter of the back-up (quarterback), if you are in competition to play, you are expected to be at every workout (for spring practice). You are the leader of the team. I took that very serious, especially in the spring.”
Sharpley says Notre Dame football-baseball athletes Jeff Samardzija and Eric Maust were able to adapt a little easier since Samardzija was pitcher and knew when he would be playing and Maust was a punter. By the time wide receiver-outfielder Golden Tate played for Charlie Weis (football) and Dave Schrage (baseball), the spring-time demands had been slightly lessened.
What has also lessened for Sharpley since opening his business is the push-back he might have gotten from some high school coaches.
“I’ve never wanted to step on anyone’s toes,” says Sharpley. “At the end of the day, I really don’t care if Penn wins or Concord wins. I want the kids I’m working with to be successful. I’m not trying to take away from what you’re doing. I’m trying to complement what you’re doing. A lot of kids want to do something extra, they just don’t know what to do. This place provides that.”
Former Notre Dame baseball and football player runs Sharpley Training in Elkhart, Ind., with wife Jackie.
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