CHICAGO | Jason Gasser doesn't wonder just how good he would have been if he had concentrated on baseball.
He split his time between football and baseball and Gasser, who committed to Northern Illinois to play baseball, has no qualms in an era of specialization.
He specializes in winning.
Gasser was a three-year starter for the Mount Carmel football and baseball teams. He also is believed to be the first football and baseball starter to win a state championship in each sport in the same school year.
"My dad (Tom) and I talked about if I could have got a baseball scholarship earlier if I concentrated on it instead of playing two sports," Gasser said. "There is no way I would trade getting two state titles for that. This is something special and something I will never forget the rest of my life."
It was a sports season that his teammates in both sports will never forget. Gasser hit .425 with 45 hits and 33 RBIs.
For his outstanding season, Gasser is The Times Player of the Year.
His teammate Jerry Houston Jr. said Gasser was more than just a player.
"Jason is the perfect teammate," Houston said. "He never knocked anyone, but he was there to help someone if they were struggling. You see how hard he worked and that made you want to work that much harder."
When Gasser couldn't help out with his bat, he came up big in the field. In the first inning of the Class 4A Reavis Sectional semifinal against Lyons Township, Gasser made a two-out, inning-ending, diving catch.
His bat was not too hot in the sectional and Standard Bank Stadium Super-Sectional, but he had key hits in the two state final games, including a sixth-inning, run-scoring double to break a scoreless tie n the state championship. He then scored and that was the difference as Mount Carmel beat Libertyville 2-1.
"I struggled against Lyons (Township), St. Rita and Lockport at the plate," Gasser said. "I never got down and the coaches told me not to worry. I knew we had other guys and I just made sure it didn't bother my fielding."
While Gasser did not slug home runs, he got his hits when they counted said Hurry. Most of his RBIs came in tight games, not in games that were blowouts.
"He came through in the clutch," Hurry said. "We play 'small ball' and Jason is the epitome of that. He moves the runner along, puts the ball in play and makes things happen."
Gasser said he knew he was not a power hitter, so he made things happen.
"If you can just put the ball in play, you force the defense to make a play," Gasser said. "If you try to hit home runs all the time, well that's going to be a lot of long fly outs. The goal is to help your team and if you make the defense catch, then throw the ball, then have someone on the other end catch, the defense can mess up because that is three people who are involved.
"When you score a run, it doesn't matter if it was a home run or a single that drove in the run."
His work ethic is also one of the reasons for his success as well as weight training. He would be in the weight room in the winter as well as open gyms. It was shagging fly balls during batting practice to learn how to get a better jump on the ball.
"That helped a lot because the more you see the ball coming at different angles, the better the chance you have to get there," Gasser said. "You have to work at it and constantly look for ways to get better."
That includes thinking ahead, said Hurry.
"Jason understands the mental part of this game and that is another reason he is so good," Hurry said. "He is always thinking one play ahead. With him, I know it sounds like a cliche', but he is like having a coach on the field. As a centerfielder, Jason is always directing the corner outfielders and he studies hitters and tendencies. How can you top that?"