Baseball and football suggest a shotgun marriage that require vastly different skill sets and physical demands. At Simeon, Dion Earls Jr. is a connective thread whose versatility, athleticism and toughness help make the Wolverines a city powerhouse in each.
Earls Jr. is an explosive All-City running back who powered Simeon to a Class 8A state semifinal appearance as a multiple purpose threat at running back, receiver and punt returner. Football was his first love, he started to play at the age of four years old.
His baseball career began at age 10 as a member of the Jackie Robinson West program. Football is his future after he signed a letter of intent with Ferris State, a top Division II program in Big Rapids, Michigan, as a running back and slot receiver.
A three-year baseball starter, Earls Jr. has just begun his final campaign leading Simeon as its leadoff hitter, offensive sparkplug and defensive stalwart who is capable of playing multiple positions. He has already played second, shortstop and centerfield for the Wolverines.
As a junior he hit just over .400 and was a demon on the basepaths, according to legendary Wolverines’ coach Leroy Franklin.
“His strongest point is that he can run,” Franklin said. “Once he gets on base, he’s just dangerous out there. He had a ton of stolen bases for us last year, and only got thrown out maybe once or twice.
“He just loves to play and is a very good player.”
Earls Jr. is a natural leader and winner. Simeon never lost a conference game in football during his three years. Simeon’s run in the state football playoffs set the tone for his final baseball season, he said.
“In football we pretty much just took off in the playoffs, and now I want to have that same energy and just transfer it to baseball and try for the same goals,” Earls Jr. said.
His strengths as a running back—balance, footwork, explosion—is evident as well in the spring. In football he was a powerful in-between the tackles runner despite his 5-7 frame. He is powerfully built and generates strong bat speed.
“I’m more of a contact hitter than a power hitter,” he said.
“As a player my strength is just my speed and how I play the game, always looking to get something extra. Anytime I hit a single I’m going to try and turn that into a double,” he said. is speed and quickness also suit him in the field. His glove is solid, keying a typically air-tight Simeon defense.
Baseball has not been a sideline activity. He participated in national camps and All-Star games in Virginia and Georgia and also played with a White Sox-organized elite high school travel team.
“I had a lot of baseball offers, but I just couldn’t give football up,” he said.
Earls Jr. is determined to go out in grand style. Taking a more pronounced leadership role this year, he said the baseball team is looking to develop and find its stride during a spring break road trip to play in a tournament at Bowling Green in Ohio this week.
“As we’re starting to see more reps with live pitching, we’re getting a bat on the ball and our pitchers are starting to throw even better,” he said. “For me personally, I’m just giving it my all for one more run, and I think the later in the season, the better we’ll be.”