With a 3.8 grade-point average and a football scholarship to Notre Dame, Michael Deeb’s high school career already has been phenomenally successful.
The only thing missing is a state championship — and the senior still has a chance to remedy that next month.
After taking a two-year hiatus from baseball, Deeb is back on the diamond, and he bats cleanup for a 20-2 American Heritage team that is ranked fifth in the nation by Baseball America, 12th by USA Today and 13th by Maxpreps.
“Mike is a natural baseball player,” Heritage coach Bruce Aven said of Deeb, who started playing the sport when he was 4 years old. “It’s not like we had to teach him a stance.”
A 6-2, 240-pound linebacker in football, Deeb casts an intimidating shadow at the plate. The Patriots, who are defending state champions in Class 5A, have numerous talented hitters, including catcher Zach Collins, who is a University of Miami recruit and a pro prospect.
Yet Deeb, despite being away from the game for those 24 months, is hitting .435 and leads his team with 25 RBI, averaging more than one per every two at-bats. Making his numbers even more amazing is the fact that Deeb joined the team after the first game of the season and only after he was sure playing baseball would not interfere with his training for football.
“Because he had been away from baseball for a while, we started him at the bottom of our lineup,” Aven said. “But he has a knack for RBI, so we kept moving him up.
“Our first three hitters, [Brandon] Diaz, Collins and [Danny] Zardon, are almost always on base. So Mike gets a lot of RBI chances.”
Deeb is used exclusively as a designated hitter. Not having to play the field cuts down on his baseball preparation and thus allows him more time to train for football.
Aven believes that if Deeb played baseball year-round, he would have way more than the one home run he has hit so far.
“He has crazy power, but his main priority is making contact and driving in runs,” Aven said. “If you watch him taking batting practice, you will see him drop balls into the next neighborhood.”
Deeb said he has never spoken to Notre Dame’s baseball coach and is focused on just playing football for the Fighting Irish.
In fact, he visited Notre Dame this past weekend to watch the football spring game, and he will start taking summer classes in South Bend in mid-June.
Still, he left the door open a crack for baseball.
“I’ve got to get ready to play college football at a big BCS program,” he said. “But I’m a competitor, and I’m open to all things. I’d love to play baseball if the opportunity presented itself.”
In the meantime, Deeb is busy with schoolwork, baseball and football training.
In addition, he is taking part in a fundraiser in honor of the late Andrea Lucas, a 17-year-old Heritage classmate who battled cystic fibrosis before dying two months ago.
His role in the April 28 fundraiser at the Heritage auditorium will be to sing a song by One Direction.
“That was her favorite band,” Deeb said.
Deeb and the Heritage baseball team start district playoffs Tuesday with a game against heavy underdog Hallandale (2-11).
If all goes as Heritage fans hope, Deeb and his senior teammates will enjoy an unforgettable week in late May, including graduation day on the 19th and the state final in Fort Myers on the 23rd.
“[Winning state] is the only goal,” said Deeb, who has never made it past the regional finals in football. “Getting that ring would be the perfect way for me to go off to South Bend.”
TRACK AND FIELD
An unfortunate time-frame loophole surrounding a grades transfer has cost Westminster Academy rising long sprinter Denise Spann a shot at state track gold.
Spann, a sophomore, was home schooled through Atlantic Technical School, but a semester overlap involving the schools resulted in Spann’s grades being transferred past the deadline and Spann left out of postseason competition.
While the FHSAA granted Spann eligibility to compete on the sub-varsity level during the regular season, a subsequent appeal to include state qualifying meets was denied.
“From my understanding, Denise’s semester at Atlantic ended after the semester started at Westminster,” said Lions coach Doria Yeaman-Rickel. “She was not allowed to change schools because she would not be getting her grades. It is just a sad situation all around. Denise is upset and her teammates are upset, too. She is just a great athlete with a great team spirit.”
Spann’s camp contends the unique circumstances in this matter left her at a disadvantage and should have resulted in the FHSAA granting the appeal.
Had Spann been granted postseason eligibility, she would have been the District 15-1A No. 1 seed in the 200 and 400, No. 2 seed in the 100 and pivotal leg on the Lions’ 400-meter relay team.
Spann’s last official competition came at the Holy Trinity Elite Classic in Melbourne on March 29 when she won the 400 in 58.26.
“This is my second year sitting out a regional meet,” Spann said. “It’s very disappointing. I am just waiting on next year to come. That will be my premier year once again.”
• West Broward d. American Heritage 25-18, 25-13, 21-25, 20-25, 15-5: Greg Holodak 17 digs, block, 16 kills, 15 points, 2 aces. Tyler Gordon 17 kills, 10 points, 16 digs, 2 blocks. Kevin Patterson 21 digs. AHP 5-7.
District 11-8A quarterfinals at Coral Glades: South Plantation vs. Taravella, 5; Piper vs. Coral Springs, 7
District 15-7A semifinal at Monarch: Boyd Anderson vs. Northeast, 4
District 15-6A quarterfinal at Archbishop McCarthy: Fort Lauderdale vs. Stranahan, 6
District 16-5A semifinals at American Heritage: Dillard vs. Pompano Beach, 4; Hallandale vs. American Heritage, 7
District 13-4A semifinals at Broward College: Somerset-Coral Springs Charter winner vs. Cardinal Gibbons-Pine Crest winner, 4; University School vs. Chaminade-North Broward Prep winner, 7:30
District 14-3A semifinals at Highlands Christian: Calvary Christian vs. Highlands Christian, 4; Coral Springs Christian vs. Westminster-Sagemont winner, 7
Palm Bch. Grdns. at Cardinal Gibbons, 4:30
Piper at Miramar, 4:30
Flanagan at Taravella, 4:30
BOYS’ WATER POLO
State play-in at Fort Lauderdale: Riviera Beach Suncoast vs. St. Thomas Aquinas, 6
State play-in: Cypress Bay at Boca Raton St. Andrews, 5:30
State play-in at Nova: Northeast vs. Cooper City, 7:30
GIRLS’ WATER POLO
State play-in at Fort Lauderdale: Riv. Bch. Suncoast vs. St. Thomas Aquinas, 4:30
State play-in: Cypress Bay at St. Andrews, 4
State play-in at Nova: Westminster Academy vs. Cooper City, 6
First round state play-in: Douglas at Pine Crest, 5
First round state play-in: St. Thomas Aquinas at Archbishop McCarthy, 2
First round state play-in: Douglas at South Plantation, 7
First round state play-in: St. Thomas Aquinas at Tavernier Coral Shores, 5
District 25 semifinals at Deerfield Beach: North Broward Prep vs. Deerfield Beach, 5; Monarch vs. Douglas, 7
District 26 semifinals at Coral Glades: Creek vs. Coral Glades, 5; Taravella vs. Northeast, 7
District 28 final at South Broward: 6
District 29 semifinals at Western: Miramar vs. Cooper City, 4:30; Nova vs. Western, 6
District 30 semifinals at Cypress Bay: Pines Chrtr. vs. Everglades, 5; CB vs. McCarthy, 7