A Rose for every season; Justin Rose is the Observer’s 2013 Male Athlete of the Year

“He played smart at times. He had flashes of greatness, and he did the right things,” said Cannon. “He didn’t have to be complicated. He was able to go in and dig out pucks, win pucks, or take someone off the puck to get it to somebody. He helped set the tone in a game. When he came out strong, you knew that everyone else was going to jump in behind him to play strong.”

Rose isn’t just a hard-hitting big man. He isn’t just a brutal defender or enforcer on the ice. Rose can match the strength and power of football and hockey with the speed and finesse of baseball. Still, Blue Knight baseball coach Charlie Lembo was a little nervous when Rose came out for baseball in the spring.

After two brutal seasons, how would his outfielder hold up?

“Not only did he play three sports, but he practiced three sports all year,” said Lembo. “That’s got to be difficult. I think he was a little bit fatigued last spring, especially in our preseason, so we gave him a few days off. He rested, came back, and did a great job for us.”

For two years, Rose anchored the defense in Southington’s outfield. He earned a .917 fielding percentage as a junior, and he was perfect as a senior fielder. Rose was an above average hitter, hitting .314 as a senior, but it was his defense that really set him apart. Diving catches were the norm. He saved an extra base hit down the line against Simsbury and made two all-star catches in the state semifinals that helped push the Knights into the championship game.

“He was really, really good in the outfield, and I think his arm got better this year with a little bit more velocity in his throws,” said Lembo. “Pretty much anything that was hit in the air I thought he was going to catch. He made some just phenomenal plays.”

As good as he was, Lembo said that Rose isn’t even close to reaching his potential, and it’s a sentiment echoed by each one of his coaches. He is still a good college prospect in all three sports, and Rose has elected to work on each one as a three-sport athlete at Avon Old Farms next year. Lembo said that the sky is the limit.

“He’s just a great athlete. I think that, if he had a chance to dedicate his time to any one of the sports he plays, that he could be even better, and that might be something that’s coming down the road,” said Lembo. “I’m going to be so interested in seeing which sport he eventually picks because they each bring different things to the table. I think he likes the physicality of football and hockey, but I never have any question that he’ll be up for any game. That’s just who he is.”

No matter what sport he chooses in college, Rose has raised the bar for multi-sport athletes at the high school. In the world of specialization, he picked three sports and dominated each one. For his outstanding athletic achievements, versatility, and leadership, Justin Rose is The Observer’s 2012 Male Athlete of the Year.

To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@southingtonobserver.com.

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