Two sports, one extremely tired athlete

Craig Candeto: This Mid plays both baseball and football, but today, his hectic schedule ends with the annual Blue and Gold football game.


April 20, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

His Saturdays begin at 6 a.m. with reveille and end after 6 p.m. with fatigue.

Not fatigues as in military work clothing, but fatigue as in exhausted, spent or bushed. Oh, those spring tripleheaders.

Naval Academy athlete Craig Candeto must be a combination of the roadrunner, Superman and a gladiator each weekend that spring football practice and baseball season overlap, but his hectic journey will conclude today with the annual Blue and Gold football game, the culmination of new coach Paul Johnson's first long look at his troops.

Only then can he devote his full athletic attention to helping the baseball squad as a starting outfielder and avoid the nicks, bumps, bruises and soreness associated with the gridiron.

"It'll be nice when this is all over," said Candeto. "I think my body will appreciate it, a summer to rest, and being healed up for fall practice. But I thought with a new staff and the fact that no positions were set, it was important for me to be at football to get acclimated with the offense."

With Brian Madden withdrawing his request for a hardship year last winter, Candeto knew he was the heir apparent to guide the Midshipmen's offense. The junior from Orange City, Fla. (between Orlando and Daytona Beach) started the first two games last fall when Madden was serving a suspension and is easily the most experienced quarterback on the roster.

But, with Johnson adopting "Expect to Win" as the team's slogan and promising open-ended competition for positions, Candeto could take nothing for granted as he had the previous year when he occasionally skipped football time to be on the diamond.

Before Navy played Maryland on Wednesday, Candeto was batting .218 with 22 hits, three homers and eight RBIs.

"I think the little bit of experience does something for you," he said. "Being before the big crowd and the big-time college atmosphere before helps. There is a little advantage."

But combining the two has been taxing. He absorbed a helmet in the mouth at one football practice that "put a little charge into me." The slash required three stitches. And twice on the baseball field he was hit by pitches on the same area of an elbow.

But Candeto has persevered through the tribulations of the injuries and a schedule that has him at a Saturday football scrimmage at 9 a.m., dashing to shed the football gear and jersey No. 11 and don his baseball uniform and jersey No. 33, then playing doubleheaders on both Saturday and Sunday.

When the baseball team is on the road, he is often changing on the fly, being driven three hours to make at least the second game of the doubleheader as he did one Saturday in Lewisburg, Pa., and will again this week in Easton, Pa.

But there have also been gratifying rewards from the hectic schedule.

Johnson has named Candeto the starting quarterback entering the fall and, barring injury, it is almost certain he will be in the opening lineup at Southern Methodist on Aug. 31.

"It's been hard for him, but I think he's handled the baseball thing very well," said the football coach. "Craig comes to practice with a good attitude, and he's had a good spring. He has the tools to run this offense, and he's a tough kid. I guarantee you he's tough because he's been knocked around."

Candeto steered a similar-type option attack at Deland High School, where he was first-team all-state in both sports.

And on one of those whirlwind spring Saturdays, Candeto achieved the ultimate for a Navy athlete: He hit a home run to beat Army on the day before Easter.

"I would say this is the biggest home run I've ever hit," said Candeto. "I am very blessed to be able to do something like this. I try to explain what it is like to my friends, but I'm not sure if they really understand what a day like this is like."

Wide receiver Brandon Rampani - back after a year away from the academy - said "you have to give him credit for being able to accomplish something like this. It helps both teams out."

When the Blue and Gold game ends today, Candeto will probably be on the move already, headed for a doubleheader at Lafayette. Even with the resilience of a youthful body, what he has done has been extremely demanding.

NOTES: Linebacker Eddie Carthan and defensive back Lenter Thomas were the defensive standouts of the spring before suffering injuries. ... Running back Gene Reese resigned from the academy, and cornerback Clyde Clark was suspended for breaking team rules.

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