June 11, 2008 · Updated 5:21 PM
Olympic baseball player Stephen Braun makes it look easy.
The simple scoop-and-throw to first base. The effortless swing from both sides of the plate. The 3.97 grade-point average in the classroom.
But as a basketball and baseball player who respects the title of student-athlete, Braun has realized he must be focused in his preparation.
And the results have shown.
Hes come a long way from being a pimple-faced sophomore, said Olympic baseball coach Nate Andrews, who also taught Braun in honors sophomore English and American Literature classes. He has a natural understanding of how (the game) works.
That understanding has led Braun to try new roles. He entered Olympic as a sophomore right-hand hitting shortstop. In two years, he has learned to hit left-handed and is a key pitcher for the Trojans.
The maturation as an athlete has come from hard work, which Braun said he developed growing up.
I used to be home-schooled and I got a good work ethic from my parents, Braun said.
The senior was home-schooled by his mother, Jean, until he entered the public-school system as a high school freshman.
Id been trying to get into school for a while, Braun said. My mom is smart, but I felt like I would get more (from going to high school).
It didnt take him long to make friends as a freshman.
I met him in ninth grade through basketball, teammate Robert Messing said. We both were shooters and thats what we were good at.
Both played on the Olympic basketball team that almost qualified for the West Central District Tournament last season. The Trojans basketball team relied on Brauns outside shooting prowess after playing five overtime games most in the Narrows League Bridge Division. But even some heroics on the hardwood werent enough to shift Brauns opinion on what his favorite sport is.
Definitely baseball, he said. Part of it is because Im better at baseball and I feel like Im at home out here. Theres more thought that goes into it.
That leads into Brauns analytical nature. While some high school seniors havent even selected a college or other career path following graduation, Braun said he will attend Washington State University in the fall.
Im going to get a degree in science at Wazzu, he said. Ive always been a math and science guy thats what Im best at.
Braun said selecting WSU wasnt difficult.
My dad went there, so Ive always been a fan, he said. And theres only three or four schools that offer ROTC.
Braun said neither of his parents are in the military and he didnt become interested in pursuing the field until recently.
Earlier this year, I was leaning toward becoming a doctor but I didnt really want to pay for it, he said, adding that the military will assist him with tuition if he serves in the Navy for six years three as an active member. I wont be out on the boats, Ill be a nurse.
For now, Braun will attempt to help the senior-laden Olympic team to the playoffs something a similar group couldnt accomplish in basketball. Braun said the Trojans should benefit from having many players on the roster that also played basketball, though.
Its kind of fun because we get camaraderie from playing together during basketball season, he said. Were close- knit and its fun.
The Trojans face the additional challenge of essentially playing an entire season on the road home games are played at Central Kitsap while a new field is constructed at Olympic.
It makes it tougher for us, he said. But if we make the playoffs, well be ready for the road trips.
That means the Trojans will continue to rely on Braun, something Andrews is comfortable with in several aspects of the game.
Hes a guy that can throw against anyone, said Andrews, adding that hes impressed with Brauns fastball and change-up. Anytime I put him on the mound I know what Im getting. He throws strikes and has good command of his pitching.
Offensively, Andrews is impressed with his pupils development as a switch-hitter.
You can always do both, but you usually dont feel as confident from one side of the plate, said Andrews, who also was a switch-hitter during his playing days. I think hes just as confident left-handed, if not more so.
The coachs highest compliment comes off the baseball diamond, though.
He takes challenging courses, is a quick learner and bright, Andrews said. Hes a model student.
The true definition of a student-athlete.