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Article:UW's Locker to play summer baseball

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After a 4-9 freshman season in which he was alternately brilliant and bewildered, the general consensus was that Jake Locker needed a stronger supporting corps and an off-season of hard work.

Locker got the former, as the Huskies brought in a recruiting class ranked 24th in the nation. But if Locker plans to study the playbook and hone his accuracy on timing route passes, he'll have to do it in between baseball games.

Locker, who was named the state's most valuable baseball player as a senior in high school, will play outfield and designated hitter this summer for the Bellingham Bells of the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League.

UW coach Ty Willingham, who himself played baseball and football at Michigan State, supported Locker's decision to spend the summer on the diamond, saying, "I don’t believe that playing baseball this summer will have a negative impact on his development as a football player."

Everyone involved in the situation agrees that when a scheduling conflict arises between the two sports, football will take first priority.

Still, Huskies fans have to be scratching their heads at this news. Locker is a phenomenal athlete who probably would have been drafted as a baseball player had he elected to go that route. But he chose football, calling the sport his first love.

So does a summer of baseball constitute some kind of an affair? Not exactly; Locker isn't a paid professional, so he has a right to do what he'd like with his free time. But given Washington's struggles last year and Locker's low completion percentage (47%), you would think the fun and games could wait for at least another year.

When Oregon coach Mike Bellotti learned last spring that quarterback Dennis Dixon would be playing summer ball in the Atlanta Braves organization, he quipped, "I think he'd be better served, in my situation, reading defenses rather than reading curveballs."

Until an injury ended his season prematurely, Dixon's dual-sport experiment turned out surprisingly well; the quarterback turned in the best season of his career and had the Ducks on track for a BCS bowl.

Washington can only hope that a stint on the diamond has the same effect on Locker.

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