You could hardly blame BYU baseball coach Mike Littlewood for being a little skeptical about Jaren Hall.
The returned missionary freshman from Spanish Fork, who spent last fall on the Cougar football team as a backup quarterback, hadn’t played competitive baseball since his senior year at Maple Mountain in 2016. This winter, Hall auditioned for the BYU baseball team.
He killed it.
“We’ve been talking about if for a year,” Littlewood said. “I thought he would come out in January, play for two or three weeks, realize he was overmatched and try to work on his game to come back next year. But from Day 1, he squared the ball up. If he could get a lot of at-bats, he could be a starter for us. He’s been that good and that refined. He has a ways to go, but we’re really excited about what he’s going to bring to the table.”
Hall said part of his recruiting process with BYU football coach Kalani Sitake was the understanding that he would be a dual-sport athlete.
“It was a package deal,” Hall said. “Kalani has been fully supportive of me. We both have the understanding that with the two sports we might be able to help each other.”
In his senior season at Maple Mountain, Hall hit .345 with five home runs, 24 RBI and 13 stolen bases while earning All-Valley and All-State honors as an athletic, skilled outfielder. Of course, he was also a highly recruited quarterback and signed with the Cougars, serving his LDS mission to Roseville, California, and returning last spring. Hall played in two football games in 2018, preserving his redshirt year as well as becoming the first African-American quarterback to take snaps at BYU.
Hall said he had confidence he could impress the baseball coaches enough for them to see his potential.
“I’ve known it all along, the competitor in me,” he said. “I was a little skeptical that my skills would come back as quickly as I wanted, but I knew they would eventually come back. I have the talent I’ve been blessed with to play this sport.
“It took some time to get my swing back, meshing with the guys on the team and building those relationships. It’s been fun. I’ve been playing baseball all my life, but it’s taken some time to knock the rust off.”
Hall will be very busy this spring as he handles both sports. Littlewood sees Hall’s role on the baseball team as a pinch runner and a defensive sub in the outfield, with the chance of a few starts here and there.
“Jaren can ease into it,” Littlewood said. “As a person, he’s 100 times better than I anticipated him to be. He’s good for the culture of the team and he’ll be fun to watch this year.”
With incumbent starter Zach Wilson sitting out spring football due to shoulder surgery, Hall and the other quarterbacks on the BYU roster will get increased reps.
“Football is first,” Hall said. “That’s where I have my scholarship and is where I want to focus as much of my time as I can. My priority since Day 1 has been football. This winter, if I’m not playing football I’ve been playing baseball, and if I’m not playing baseball I’m playing football. It’s been kind of a 50-50 split and that’s where I’d like to keep it.”
Back in the spring of 1992, BYU quarterback Ryan Hancock pulled double duty when he played in the Cougar spring football game then walked across the street to the baseball field to pitch.
“I can see something like that happening,” Hall said. “I’m not exactly sure how that will work out, but that would be a great day.”