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THE GRIND: South Forsyth's Sims balances promising baseball career with football
South Forsyth's Landon Sims
South Forsyth's Landon Sims poses for a portrait photo Monday, July 17, 2017. - photo by Micah Green

THE GRIND: South Forsyth Multi sport Athlete Landon Sims

By: Paul Dybas

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On a muggy Monday morning in July, South Forsyth High School’s baseball field sits unused, with tarps covering the bullpen mounds and puddles scattered across the infield dirt, with nobody on duty to sop them up and get the field in playing shape.

Across the parking lot, though, Landon Sims has already been working for more than two hours.

This summer has been a relatively calm one for Sims, who serves as the War Eagles’ ace starter during the spring. He’s been playing in some tournaments for Team Elite, his travel baseball team, but he isn’t playing for Team USA’s 17U program, with the opportunities there not being as exciting as the overseas trip he went on last summer as part of the 15U team.

He’s been going to football practice, preparing for his second season starting at safety for the War Eagles.

“I definitely have those days where I’m like, ‘I don’t want to get out of bed right now and go to football and have to go to baseball later,’” Sims said. “But, I don’t know, it’s that mentality. I’m a really competitive person, so it’s just my nature.”

South Forsyth's Landon Sims
South Forsyth's Landon Sims poses for a portrait photo Monday, July 17, 2017. - photo by Micah Green

The multi-sport lifestyle is particularly complicated for someone like Sims, as the opportunities and pressures of his baseball career keep growing. The righthander is one of the top pitching talents in his class in the state, and he committed to Southeastern Conference powerhouse Mississippi State the winter before his sophomore season. This past spring, he had a 2.10 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 50 innings.

He might not be a premier first-round draft prospect like Forsyth Central’s Ethan Hankins, whose rangy frame and seemingly effortless motion have seen him rocket up prospect rankings, but Sims’ fastball has touched 94 mph, and his tight breaking ball is an effective, reliable secondary offering. By his senior year, he’ll likely be drawing attention from numerous MLB organizations.

And as much as high school and college coaches encourage participation in multiple sports, people like Sims typically just play baseball. Sims can think of only one teammate on Team Elite – center fielder Austin Turner plays football for Buford – who plays more than just baseball.

Sims has been playing football since first grade, though, and while he said baseball is definitely his preferred sport now, the gridiron still holds a strong appeal. 

“It'd be really tough to come out here and see all my buddies playing and be up in the stands not being able to play,” Sims said.

South Forsyth's Landon Sims
South Forsyth's Landon Sims poses for a portrait photo Monday, July 17, 2017. - photo by Micah Green

Sims likes the loose, instinctual aspect of playing safety, and he likes to hit people, even if the thought of him doing so makes his baseball coaches cringe. He’s already been able to get more work in both areas than last summer – because of Team USA’s schedule, Sims only went to two summer practices and didn’t play in the War Eagles’ scrimmage. His first hit came in a game, in the Corky Kell Classic against Hillgrove. 

Sims hasn’t thought much about what next summer, the one between his junior and senior year, will be like. Those months are crucial for players aspiring to be serious draft prospects, with showcases, All-American games and tryouts for Team USA jamming their schedules. It’s not particularly compatible with football, but Sims doesn’t want to give up that sport.

It helps that South’s football coaches have been “really lenient” with Sims’ baseball commitments, he said. Defensive coordinator Trevor Williams played baseball at Sequoyah High School, and wide receivers coach Heath Hover has coached baseball at South.

Sims will figure out how to deal with the conflicts when they arise. Right now, he’s focused on helping the War Eagles get back to the state playoffs. He’s still mainly a safety, but Sims has also been taking some reps at quarterback, and he quickly refutes the thought that his pitching aptitude translates to throwing a football.

“Oh man,” Sims said. “Everything’s different.”

He still has some baseball left this summer, but on Monday, he’s done for the day, already drenched in sweat before noon. Landon Sims is ready for a nap.