Singleton: Baseball lover by birth, standout by work

January 06, 1995|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Contributing Writer

There's an excerpt in the book "Rex Barney's Orioles Memories 1969-1994" that describes outfielder Ken Singleton's love of basketball.

The passage tells how Singleton, who played for the Orioles from 1975 to 1984, was always shooting around the clubhouse with a rubber ball or rolled-up paper.

Now, Singleton, who played one season at Hofstra University on a basketball scholarship, can be spotted sitting in the stands at area boys high school basketball games.

But he's not there solely because of his passion for the sport. And when he hears his old nickname -- "Singy" -- being yelled out by someone in the crowd at these games, it's not directed at him.

Singleton and the rest of the spectators are watching another Singy -- Singleton's 15-year-old son, Justin.

Justin, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, is a two-sport athlete at St. Paul's. He's the leading scorer for the Crusaders' basketball team and a pitcher/infielder for the baseball squad.

For the basketball team (9-2), Justin averages 14.9 points, 4.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds. The highlight of his season was a career-high 28 points in St. Paul's 62-57 upset of Severn last month.

"He started at point guard as a ninth-grader, but we moved him to the two guard to get him in a situation where he can score more," St. Paul's coach Rick Collins said. "He's capable of playing any position. He can shoot the three or take it to the basket. He can dunk. He has great vision. He handles the ball well. He's a total package."

Justin isn't bad at baseball, either.

As a member of the Putty Hill team two years ago, Justin, a left-hander, pitched a shutout in the deciding game to lead his team to the 14-under national championship.

And although he batted ninth, Justin hit a team-high five home runs as a freshman last season.

So which sport does he prefer?

"Both are important to me," Justin said. "I definitely want to play both sports in college. I just have to see what doors open for me and what doors get slammed in my face."

The latter isn't likely to happen too often, according to Collins.

"He's a Division I player in both sports," said Collins, a former assistant basketball coach under Bob Wade at Dunbar. "He wants to play both sports in college and he will do so."

After college, Justin said he would like to play one of the sports professionally, but he's keeping his options open.

"I'm definitely leaning toward the sports field, but I'm going to school so I can be prepared in other fields," said Justin, a member of the headmaster list (higher than the honor roll) with a 3.47 grade-point-average. "If something happens and I don't make it, I want to be successful in whatever I do."

Justin said baseball probably came more naturally to him because of his exposure to the game at an early age. By the time he was 2 or 3 years old, he was taught how to swing a bat by his father.

At 6, Justin began playing basketball.

"Years ago, Al Bumbry and I put a basket up in the backyard and it was mostly for the two of us," Ken said. "But as the years have gone by, the basket has gotten more use by Justin and it has paid off."

Said Justin: "Because of my dad, I saw baseball first hand. That's what drives me to see what I can do in relation to what my dad did, but always trying to be just Justin, not Ken's son."

Justin said that being the son of a major-league player has not been a burden.

"The pressure comes from other people because of who I am, but once I start playing I forget about it," he said.

As far as basketball goes, Ken -- who was not known for his speed on the base paths -- admits that his son is a better player than he was.

"He's a better ballhandler and more of a scorer," said Ken, who left Hofstra after one year to play baseball. "And he's quicker. During my college days, I was one of the fastest guys around, but then for some reason it all ended."

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