GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Griffin Kain is usually seen with a smile on his face walking around the halls of Oak Hills High School.
Coaches and administrators like the way the junior carries himself in the classroom and in athletics. He takes Advanced Placement and honors classes with a high grade-point average.
So it should come as no surprise that enthusiasm helped lead him to participate in baseball and track and field this spring.
Two sports in the same season are not uncommon for some student-athletes at schools the size of Oak Hills (2,400 enrollment). But it depends on the combination of sports.
Baseball and track are often tough to balance because of a busy spring schedule when both sports may compete the same days.
Kain, 17, also plays defensive back on the football team in the fall. He's played basketball in the past, too.
“His physicality was unbelievable,” Oak Hills football coach Kyle Prosser said. “He believes in himself now and the weight room as well. I think he’s put on almost 15 to 18 pounds since football has been over. So he is about 200 or 205 (pounds), which is exciting.”
This spring, Kain is the starting center fielder for the baseball team and competes in the 200-meter dash and long jump for the track and field team.
“Other than being a great kid and a leader here at Oak Hills High School, Griffin Kain is one of those guys you don’t need on your team -- you absolutely have to have,” Prosser said. “And it’s great have him around the school building and the community.”
Overcoming an obstacle
Kain, a left-hander, doesn’t dwell on the fact he was born with a defect in his right arm. A 9 1/2-pound baby, there were some delivery problems and he had nerve damage connected to his shoulder.
With brachial plexus, he had physical therapy at two weeks old, according to his mother, Joy Kain. Griffin had surgery in kindergarten and lost motion to move his right arm across his body.
But Kain persevered with his family's support. He has played sports since he was 5 or 6 and doesn’t let his arm hamper his natural athletic ability.
“It hasn’t really held me back from really anything,” Kain said. “Sometimes I struggle a little bit with the movement -- how I carry things sometimes. I just push through it and try to do everything to the best of my ability.”
The family couldn't be more proud of what Kain has accomplished not only in school but in life.
"He's always loved athletics," Joy said. "Griffin is a family-loving, good Christian boy. He goes to Bible studies every other Monday at school. He's just so well-rounded."
The coaches see the same type of character on the track and on the diamond.
A natural on the track
As of last week, Kain’s best long jump was 21 feet and 9 inches. His best 200-meter dash time was 22.2 seconds. He is within reach of two 40-year-old school records.
Kevin Dunnette holds the long jump record at 22 feet and 2 ¾ inches set in 1977. Jim Schnur holds the 200 record in 21.9 seconds set in 1973.
Kain has played baseball for 11 or 12 years and finally relented this spring to compete in track after Oak Hills track and field coach Ben Hageman asked him. The track coaching staff worked out an arrangement with Oak Hills baseball coach Chuck Laumann on the scheduling.
Baseball is Kain's first passion, but track and field has also provided opportunities.
When Kain jumped 21-9 the first meet of the year at Harrison and ran 22.4 at the Anderson Tri-Meet, the Oak Hills coaches knew there was plenty of potential on minimal training.
“When Griffin told me that he was going to come out for track this year, I was cautiously optimistic,” Hageman said. I knew what kind of athlete that he was but it is very difficult for high school kids to just show up and be successful versus kids that train year-round.”
Assistant coach Jerry Dean said he hasn’t seen a naturally gifted athlete like Kain in quite some time. He lives a few houses from the family and has joked he volunteered to build a long jump pit in his back yard in order for Kain to get more reps.
“My gosh, this kid could choose four events to possibly qualify to state,” Dean said. “He’s got that kind of ability.”
Laumann said Kain has a done a very nice job in center field. Laumann said as long as the lines of communication are open he’s OK with the setup. The key for Kain is to not allow his mind to drift to another sport while he’s at one place or another.
“The guy runs extremely well,” Laumann said. “Talking to the track coaches, they were very interested in doing this. I’m not going to step on a guy’s leg if he wants to do it.”
Kain said there is some correlation between the two sports.
“I know when I get ready to long jump I get really anxious,” Kain said. “I usually take deep breaths and I just relax. When I go up to the plate for baseball I get anxious as well. I just calm down and get myself under control.”
Kain and Hageman identified certain meets and planned some training toward the junior being the best at the end of the season by late May. So far, so good.
“Griffin has handled doing double duty well,” Hageman said. “We understand that he is a baseball-first kid and just want to give him opportunities to compete and realize his potential in the sport of track and field.”