There have been student-athletes who signed a college scholarship with an impressive ACT score.
Another special destination on signing day is inking a letter of intent to a Division I school. But on Feb. 13 in the Munford High School cafeteria, Cougar Baseball senior Owen Geiger pulled off a triple.
Among friends, family and teammates, he made it official his commitment to take his talents to the U.S. Naval Academy and become a Midshipman.
“I didn’t think I would get here and be able to sign my name,” he said. “The Navy was the choice because it set me up nicely for my career afterwards. It allows me to play at a really high competitive level for the next four years.”
Desiring a career in aviation, Owen is taking his pitching skills to Annapolis, Maryland. He celebrated his signing day with parents Seth and Melissa, grandparents Kenny and Ruth Geiger, and sisters Kelly Hambrick and Claire Geiger.
Seth said his son becoming a triple-threat student/athlete was part natural, part resilience and 100 percent determination.
“Honestly it’s been real easy for us as parents,” he acknowledged. “We’ve never had to lift a finger. He’s always done what he’s supposed to do and on his own. We knew when he was little bitty, he was different in that regard. We can’t take a whole lot of credit.”
Michelle said her son gravitated to his studies.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “We’ve cried about — happy cries about it. We don’t think it’s real. It won’t be real until it actually happens. He’s been a great kid. He’s different. He’s always been different.”
Owen said he was fulfilling a natural desire when it came to being an honor student, scoring a 31 on the ACT and being a member of the National Honor Society
“I guess I was born motivated,” he said. “Like they said, they never had to push me. I just wanted to be good and be good at what I do. I want to be at the top of my class, be at the top of whatever I do. Why not try hard? If you’re going to be here, might as well try to do it right.”
As a ballplayer Owen wanted to be the best catcher he could be while growing up in Tipton County. Starting at the age of 6, the “chunky” Owen displayed his cannon from behind the plate.
Then as he entered high school coaches like Munford Head Coach Scotty Yount convinced him to give the mound a try. That’s when Owen realized he might be able to play at the next level.
“It was a little bit further down the road and I started playing travel ball,” he said of his epathney. “We won a couple of games and I was like, ‘OK, this is a good time.’ I started competing and doing really well defensively.
“I was always a good catcher,” Owen acknowledged. “I started enjoying it and I’ve just enjoyed being good. I’ve always had. I do whatever I can to stay that way and just compete.”
Just finding his groove on the rubber, Owen suffered a setback that jeopardized his playing career.
“Has been a lot of highs and lows,” Seth acknowledged. “He had Tommy John surgery his sophomore year. That was a hard couple of months around the house. But the kid just got back into the weight room and worked his tail off. It’s been a long road.”
The infamous baseball-related surgery is the UCL reconstruction around the elbow. The surgery is commonly used to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament inside the elbow by replacing it with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.
The goal of the surgery is to stabilize the elbow, reduce or eliminate pain and restore stability and range of motion.
This procedure was introduced and first performed by Frank Jobe, M.D., on baseball pitcher Tommy John in 1974—hence the colloquial name Tommy John surgery.
“I got to work as soon as I could,” Owen recalled. “I decided I’m not quitting, never going to quit until I absolutely have to. They say that surgery will either really make you or really break you. It makes you realize whether when you get done playing I miss it or I don’t miss it at all.”
Michelle watched the men in her life be doubtful moments leading up to the procedure and when Owen started rehab.
“Owen and his dad did have moments of doubts,” she recalled. “But I am the one always in the house who says, ‘It’s going to work out the way it is supposed to.’ Everything happens for a reason and it did because they ended up being the best place for him.
“It was pretty hard and there were days I wanted to cry about it,” Michelle continued. “He’ll be OK about it. Then he thought he wasn’t good and would never get back and be better. He got better and now he’s stronger for it.”
Owen and Seth build up the courage to return to the Munford Baseball Field to start the road back.
“I was scared for my son,” Seth acknowledged. “I was worried sick. It was a tough couple of months around the house. You could see pretty quickly he was going to work himself back and now he’s better than ever for it.
“I told him, ‘If you don’t put in the work, it’s not going to happen for you,’” he added. “We started coming up here to the ballfield and we’d throw 20 feet away about 20 times and then drive back home. We started it and did it every single day. Step by step and we finally got it done.”
Owen has the desire to fire the ball into his dad’s glove and return to his old form. But Owen knew in his heart in order to reach his dream of playing college baseball and help the Cougars he had to take it slow.
“I really did miss it,” he said of playing. “Being out that long made me realize how much I really do enjoy the game. I didn’t want to do anything but get better at it, work as hard as I could and come back to be stronger than I was before.”
Fast forward to May of his junior season, the Cougars are in Sub-State. The do-or-die game to reach State, Yount called Owen’s number to start against the rival Millington Trojans.
“He’s played at a high level his whole life,” Yount noted. “He transitioned from being a catcher to a pitcher. He’ll do whatever I need him to do in order for the team to be successful in those situations.
“We needed him on the mound, even coming off the Tommy John he had, not being at 100 percent,” he added. “He knew how good he had to be for us to advance. We talk about trust a lot in our program, he’s at the top of the list in trust no doubt.”
Yount has full confidence Geiger will shine at Navy for Head Coach Paul Kostacopoulos. The Midshipmen play in the Patriot League and take on teams out of conference like Virginia and Ohio.
“He needs to be challenged,” Yount said. “I look at him and he’s excelled at everything. The Naval Academy is obviously going to challenge him. But this is bigger than signing Division I Baseball. Making that decision to serve your country is huge. I don’t just mean that in a cliche way.
“It’s very humbling to me,” he continued. “Not everybody gets to coach a kid who got accepted into the Naval Academy. Not everybody can do that. I tell them this, ‘What separates the good from the great? The greats make everyone around them better.’ That’s what he’s done and it doesn’t surprise me that he’s going there.”
The third phase of Owen’s commitment is the pledge to serve his country.
“That goal was really short-lived,” he acknowledged. “It hasn’t been a really long time dream of mine. It came up when I got a really good score on my ACT. I made a 31 and I had people say, ‘Man you should try the service academies.’ I looked into it and I decided that serving my country will be one of if not the most fulfilling experience of my life. If I really pursued it I decided I can play four more years, get a good education and then serve, why not?”
The most important triple of Owen’s life was executed to the approval of those at his signing ceremony. His talents might get him a shot at the Majors.
But following in the footsteps of NFL Hall of Famer Roger Staubach or NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson is not one of Owen’s goals. He respects those greats going to the Navy and then pursuing athletic careers.
“If I were to get drafted out of the Navy, I don’t know how interested I would be,” he said. “The whole name of the game for me was to take baseball as far as I can. Use baseball to get an education and then set myself up for a really good career afterwards.
“If I were to get drafted, it would have to be a really big offer for me to take it,” Geiger concluded. “I am not really interested in bouncing around in the minor league. I want to get my career started and get rolling as an adult.”