Hoover High's Nonstop Athlete Is a Man for Three Seasons

Times Staff Writer

John Alaimo certainly knows how to keep busy.

In less than two weeks recently, the three-sport standout from Hoover High School signed a letter of intent to play collegiate football next fall, started his last prep basketball game and began to prepare for the Tornadoes baseball season.

Playing one sport has never been enough for Alaimo at Hoover, so for more than three years he has played three--football, basketball and baseball. And if he had time, Alaimo says, he would play volleyball.

"I would be miserable without sports," said Alaimo, who is finishing his prep career pitching for the touted Hoover baseball team. "I probably wouldn't even be in school if I couldn't play sports."

'Probably the Best'

In an age wHen one or two sports is more than enough for most high school athletes, Alaimo is a rare breed who thrives on the three-sport challenge.

"He's probably the best athlete I've been around," said football Coach Fred Cuccia, who coached Alaimo for three years. "John is the type of player that constantly has to be playing sports. The more he plays, the better he is. He really loves his sports. . . . He lives and dies for them."

Alaimo wouldn't have it any other way.

"You've got to want to do it, and that's what I want," said Alaimo. "I've always wanted to play sports. I just can't stand to sit there and do nothing. When one thing is over, I must start another."

The day after one sport's season is over, he moves to the next.

"I think he's crazy," said his father, John Sr. "I don't even think he knows how he does it."

Tired but Determined

Summer vacation has been even more hectic. It's not uncommon for Alaimo to play a baseball game in the morning, throw passes in the afternoon and finish the day with a summer league basketball game.

"Sure, I get tired," said Alaimo. "But I get mad sitting at home when I could be playing."

His addiction to sports leaves little time for anything else. He even has trouble remembering the last time he went out with his girlfriend. To Alaimo, a date is watching a basketball game on television.

"I don't know when was the last time we went out," said Alaimo. "We don't go out much, but she doesn't mind because she knows what I want to do."

Although his 6-2, 170-pound frame may look fragile compared to other athletes, Alaimo has avoided serious injury.

"I'm just amazed how he can play that good year in and year out and doesn't get hurt," Cuccia said. "He's just a strong, wiry kid."

Shook Off Injury

But even when the tough competitor is hurt, it's hard to keep him off the field.

In a football game against La Canada, Alaimo twisted an ankle. But after sitting out just two offensive plays to get taped, he was back in the game and engineered an 85-yard scoring drive.

"Sports is my future," Alaimo said. "I just hope to go as far as possible. I'd like to become a professional athlete in one sport or another."

The question is--which one? Coaches say Alaimo shows potential in all three sports.

"What sets him apart from other athletes is that he's knowledgeable in every sport he plays," said Hoover baseball Coach Bob Cooper. "Other kids might be great athletes, but they probably don't know more about sports than he does. That's what makes him better."

Chose Nevada Reno

For now, Alaimo has chosen to play football.

Alaimo, named back of the year on the Times' all-Glendale team, has signed to play football for Nevada Reno Coach Chris Ault next fall.

The Hoover quarterback had also been considering South Carolina, Colorado and Mississippi before deciding on Reno Nevada.

Alaimo, a first-team all-Pacific League selection, passed for 1,066 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for 452 yards and six touchdowns in his senior year for the Tornadoes, who went 8-2 but were denied a CIF Southern Section playoff berth for using a player who was academically ineligible.

A three-year starter at defensive back, Alaimo set a school record for career interceptions with 22.

Alaimo, who said he will probably redshirt his freshman year in college, is projected to be a quarterback, where the incumbent is senior quarterback Eric Beavers, who holds almost every Wolfpack passing record entering his final season.

Alaimo realizes that his three-sport reign must end if he is to play college football. Although he concedes his basketball career, Alaimo is reluctant to eliminate baseball, too.

Determined to Play Baseball

"There's no way I can cut it down to one sport. No way. I know they say that in college I'm going to have to cut it down for maybe my first and second years. But I told them it's going to be tough because after football you don't do anything except lift weights. It's going to be impossible for me to just sit there while baseball teams are playing out in front of me. I just have to be on the go.

"Coach Ault doesn't like that idea, but I'm going to have to talk to him because I'm already nervous about that."

Baseball might be the best chance Alaimo has for a professional career. Professional scouts have shown interest in Alaimo, who was an all-Pacific League pitcher in his junior year when he paced the Hoover pitching staff with a 7-3 record, a 1.86 ERA and 74 strikeouts.

"I want him to play baseball because I know he has a future," his father said. "There are more pitchers on a baseball team than there are quarterbacks on a football team."

But Alaimo wants to keep his options open.

He Prefers Football

"I like football the most, but future-wise, I think I have a better chance in baseball," he said. "I'll work hard at both, but whatever I have the best chance at going professional in I'll go for."

Alaimo has always been selfish about his sports. Like a protective mother, he has pampered, coddled and shielded each sport from people who even suggest he eliminate one. For years he has ignored pleas from his father and hints from Hoover coaches to concentrate on one or two.

"They don't ask you to quit a sport, but they hint hard," Alaimo said. "They tell me to concentrate on one sport. They say if I concentrate I can be the best in one sport. I just ignore them."

Hoover basketball Coach Kirt Kohlmeier knows what that's like.

"If a kid can handle (three sports), that's fine," said Kohlmeier. "But being greedy, I wanted him just to play basketball. But knowing what kind of importance the other sports played in his life, I couldn't tell him to stop playing a sport.

Fine Year in Basketball

"Sure, you'd like a kid to concentrate on only your sport, but there are others. If he can play that many and still be successful, who am I to complain?"

Kohlmeirer doesn't have much to complain about this year. Alaimo's play was one of few bright spots for the Tornadoes, who finished with an abysmal 1-9 Pacific League record and were 8-14 overall.

Alaimo, who played guard/forward, was the team's leading scorer, averaging 13.5 points a game with an 18.5 average in league action. He also led in assists.

Currently, Alaimo is concentrating on baseball and getting his pitching arm into shape.

"It's going to take a little time for him to get ready," said Cooper, whose team opened league play this week. "The other kids on the team have played a lot more than he has, which puts him at a disadvantage."

Said Alaimo, "I think I'm just worn out. It has been a long year. But I'm pretty proud of what I've done. I feel like I've accomplished something that no one else could do."

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