There was a time when Chris Klenk's athletic future looked like it would be in running.
"I was always good at track," Klenk said. "Everyone said I'd be able to get to college in track."
Klenk lettered in cross country as a freshman, but baseball remained at the top of his list. As a sophomore, he gave up running to concentate on the diamond.
Two years later, his feet are still paying dividends. The Portage senior has verbally committed to play baseball for the University of Cincinnati, which recruited him in part due to his ability to run.
"I asked coach (Ty) Neal (Tuesday) and he said he was bringing me in primarily because I'm left-handed and because of my speed," Klenk said.
When Klenk played in the Crossroads Series at U.S. Steel Yard in June, he was timed in a sizzling 6.46 seconds in the 60-yard dash.
"...And the calls started," Portage coach Tim Pirowski said. "You can't coach speed and that's what they like."
Neal, a highly-regarded pitching coach while at Indiana University, took the Cincinnati job in June. Klenk's original interest was in attending IU. When Neal left for the Queen City, Klenk emailed him to congratulate him on the move and promptly began to take a look at the Bearcats program.
"I was interested in the school side of it. It had what I was looking for in a college, beyond the baseball," Klenk said. "It's a big school, 40-some thousand. It's next to a big city, but not in the city. It's not too far away, but far enough away that I'll be away from home."
Klenk's primary position has been catcher, though Pirowski began to play him in the outfield last season. That's also where he played during the summer showcases he attended this summer.
"It's all up in the air," said Klenk, well aware of the physical grind of catching. "My goal is just to get on the field, and as long as I have the same work ethic, that's where I'll be. Whatever gets me in the lineup."
Saying yes to Cincy comes with a risk, albeit calculated, for Klenk. He has been assured of a roster spot, but will pay for his freshman year. If things progress as hoped, scholarship money will become available when he is a sophomore.
"Of all the schools I was looking at, the ones that were interested in me, they were all priced about the same for my freshman year," Klenk said. "With my major (sports management), I'll have the opportunity to work an internship with the Reds, Bengals or a minor-league team. If I can get in somewhere, it'll be a good investment."
In addition to Cincinnati, Klenk was in contact with IPFW, Rose-Hulman and Wabash. He carries a 4.27 grade point average, ranking 13th in a class of over 600. His schedule includes five advanced placement classes and he is also in taking a computer design class in vocational school.
In an era when most recruiting is done on the road in the summer, Klenk is an exception to the rule. Save for two years ago, when he played in tournaments for Apex, he was not involved in travel baseball.
"It's still possible to do without it," Klenk said. "I was in Portage Little League since I was 4. I did showcases on my own, but I was very local with all of it."