Logan Shore, a junior defenseman for Coon Rapids high school, worked on his slap shot during a recent practice at Schwan Super Rink in Blaine.
Coon Rapids junior Logan Shore felt the pressure and promise of the recruiting process all summer. Unlike most elite high school athletes, he got a double dose: baseball and hockey.
In his room were more than 130 letters from about 30 colleges interested in his pitching skills. Meanwhile, Shore's hockey teammates wanted him back on the rink after a one-year hiatus. So did second-year hockey coach Brandon Mileski.
For Shore, it wasn't a matter of choosing one or the other. The questions were: Could he do both? And what danger could playing hockey pose to his baseball future? Shore pondered the situation for months.
"The college thing was a bigger focus just because it's my future," Shore said. "But I didn't want to dis my friends."
Ultimately, he decided to double-up. Shore cemented his return to hockey a week before school began. In November, he gave a verbal commitment to play baseball at Florida. In 2013, Shore will bring his 94 mile-per-hour fastball to Gainesville. This winter, he's trying to elevate a long-struggling Cardinals boys' hockey program.
Shore, a defenseman, brings the same velocity and control he uses on the mound to his shots from the blueline. More importantly, he carries the same athletic grace and confidence.
"I wouldn't have necessarily recruited him so hard if I didn't keep hearing how he was such a great kid," Mileski said. "He's a winner. He's already a great leader. On the ice, he's got maybe the best shot on the team."
The process of recruiting Shore started at the end of last season. Mileski's first team finished 7-19-0, but the new coach knew of Shore's hockey past. Shore made all of the "A" teams in the Coon Rapids youth hockey association.
And he threw off the shackles of specialization, competing for the Cardinals' Nordic skiing team last winter and earning team rookie of the year honors. This winter, his baseball regimen is limited to throwing about three times per week and taking swings in the batting cage once a week.
"Last year was a really big year for baseball, being recruited and everything," Shore said. "I just kind of needed a break mentally from a very intense sport like hockey. But I still wanted to stay in shape and Nordic skiing was probably the best workout I've ever done."
Shore attended a few varsity hockey games and felt the game's tug.
"I missed hockey," he said.
Shore's teammates missed him, too.
Mileski said he "kept peppering" hockey player Jake Bruner, Shore's good friend and baseball teammate, to gauge Shore's interest in hockey. When Mileski learned Shore might come back, he asked for a phone number and permission to call.
A week before school started, Shore and his father, Lance, met with Mileski and Coon Rapids activities director Kelley Scott. Shore's main concerns were baseball conflicts. He would need to miss a game in January to attend an outstate baseball event and could miss the occasional practice if pro scouts came to see him pitch. No problem, Mileski assured him.
Though his family and the Gators coaching staff co-signed Shore's hockey plans, he has heard from skeptics.
"A lot of people have said to me, 'That's kind of a dumb choice,' " Shore said.
His comeback: "It's just faith in God. If I'm meant to play baseball and meant to go to Florida and to play professional baseball someday, I should be fine. I've got a year and a half, so if something happened I would recover."
Added Mileski, a former Totino-Grace defenseman: "If I thought I was going to be putting him or his future in another sport in harm's way, I wouldn't have taken him. I'm not that ego-driven where I need to win games. I want what's best for the kids."
The offensive-minded Shore does not play an overly physical style. But built solid at 6-2 and 190 pounds, he's not afraid to use his body.
"It seems like he's playing full on," senior defenseman Alex Wojciechowski said. "He's mixing it up, and it doesn't seem like he's holding anything back."
The addition of Shore and Alexsi Mustaniemi, a 6-6 exchange student from Finland, upgraded the defensive corps from suspect to solid. With more talent, Mileski had the luxury of moving Connor Kirkeide to forward.
Shore is undecided whether he will play hockey as a senior next winter. But the Cardinals are too busy enjoying the present to worry.
"He's added some confidence," Wojciechowski said. "We're thinking we can go into games and win. The past couple of years we haven't had that mindset."