BERKELEY, Calif. -- Watching Max Flower glide away, making an easy turn, sticking his hands out, and at the last moment, looking up to track the ball into his hands, it’s hard to remember that this isn’t baseball. He’s not playing center field. At least, not now.
Flower – a 2016 California baseball commit – didn’t have a mitt this weekend when he visited Berkeley. He had shoulder pads and a helmet.
“I think it’s awesome,” says Flower, who participated in the Cal football team’s three-day full-contact camp with his Moraga (Calif.) Campolindo teammates. “I get to experience a little bit of college life – stay in the dorms, eat the food – and it just makes me excited, walking around the campus and seeing how amazing the views are, and the facilities. It makes me excited, more than anything.”
After the final seven-on-seven session of the day, Flower walks along the east rim of California Memorial Stadium. Down the hill, the baseball staff is in the midst of their own camps. To the left of the 6-foot-3.5, 205-pound outfielder, as he walks down the hill, the sun sends up its last glimmer against the coming night, casting the Campanile in deep violet silhouette.
Flower is a throwback. Not only does he play two varsity sports, but he excels. Both football and baseball have worked in concert to help make him a better athlete, and better at each of his respective positions, as well.
“Football helps a lot, actually, tracking the ball and eyesight over-shoulder stuff,” says Flower. “Both [baseball and football] coaches actually compare them a lot, without even knowing it. They make connections to being an outfielder and a receiver.”
After earning all-tournament honors at the NorCal World Series, Flower took to the gridiron -- his first varsity go-around -- and led the Cougars with 56 catches for 1,052 yards and 13 touchdowns, as Campo made a run to the state title, and an undefeated 16-0 record.
“That was very special,” says Flower. “Us and the class above us were very tight. We’ve known each other for a long time – more than the years we’ve spent together at Campo. With this class, it’s pretty similar. I’ve been friends with a lot of the kids from the grade below me. A couple of them are my neighbors. I think we’re getting close to having that same bond, which is very good, to make a deep run in the playoffs.”
This fall, though, will be Flower’s last time pulling on the shoulder pads, so he’s savoring all he can. He’s got another future ahead of him, though, on the diamond, and during late May, he was focused on one diamond in particular – the one in College Station, Tex., where some of his future teammates took host Texas A&M to the brink in the NCAA Regional.
“I watched very closely,” Flower says. “I sat down with my family and a couple friends for every game, and watched them start to finish.”
Flower talked with the staff right before the playoff run, and sat down with his recruiter – pitching coach Mike Neu -- recently, as well.
“I talked to them right before the run, and I actually saw Neu last week and talked to him for actually quite a long time about it,” Flower said.
A year from now, Flower will be entering Summer Bridge, preparing to perhaps take over in center for junior Aaron Knapp, in right for senior Devin Pearson, or in left for senior Brian Celsi, or perhaps pitch.
“I think the talent that’s coming in, in the ’15 class – the grade right above me – and the talent that is in our class, I think will really help the team in the future, and hopefully, put us over the edge,” says Flower.
With the MLB Draft now over, Cal lost senior Chris Paul -- as expected – but out of the three top pitching prospects signed -- Joey Matulovich, Mike Soroka and Tanner Dodson -- Soroka and Dodson were drafted, but only Soroka chose to sign, after being picked in the first round (28th overall) by the Atlanta Braves.
Flower will have company if he winds up in the outfield, as incoming freshman Lorenzo Hampton also looks to be a good bet to at the very least fight for playing time as a first-year, and then take on full-time starting duties as a sophomore, if not earlier.
“I’m very excited, because we have two Campo alumni that I’ll be playing with [Denis Karas and Matt Ladrech] for at least a year, and a bunch of guys in the class above me, I’ve gotten to know them pretty well,” Flower says. “The two Campo guys – Denis and Matt – have told me good things about all the other guys on the team, so I’m definitely really excited.”
With his commitment to the Bears secure (he committed back in August), Flower isn’t going to run the gamut of summer baseball showcases, which will help save his arm, if he plans to keep on pitching, as well. He’ll be playing in a few tournaments for the Zoots – a NorCal travel team – and trying out for the Area Code games.
He doesn’t need to do the showcases anymore, he says. He’s already found his future home.