From Center Back to Center Field, Munzer is at the Center of P-P Sports

Watch Erik Munzer PZ ’13 play any sport—see him smack a line drive into the outfield and subsequently bear down on the bases, or close upon, dispossess and then topple an opposing forward who has made a heavy touch—and you will immediately get the impression that he would be good at every one. You would not be wrong; along with occupying center field in baseball and playing central defense in soccer at the collegiate level, the 6’1”, 190-pound Munzer starred as a wide receiver in high school. 

During his college career in both soccer and baseball, Munzer’s excellence has been noticed in the form of first team all-SCIAC honors. At Beverly Hills High, he was a first-team, all-conference standout for these two sports; in football, the sport in which Munzer was most highly recruited, he was awarded First Team All-CIF Western Division recognition.    

When people discuss the multitalented Munzer, there is one thing you will hear repeated: what an amazing athlete he is. Baseball Coach Frank Pericolosi will mention that Munzer’s arm and speed [legs] are the attributes that set him apart. Soccer teammates—and this is a firsthand report—will admit that when it is time to split off into two groups for one-on-one drills, the non-Munzer line is consistently longer than the line whose members must contend with Munzer’s strength and quickness. 

If one asks Munzer to discuss himself, one will discover that his athletic success is a product of passion. 

“While other kids used to read or chat or trade Pokemon cards, I would be playing sports,” he said. “All I ever wanted to do as a kid was play sports. I’ve always had a lot of fun doing it.”

 He had so much fun, apparently, that Munzer has never had the heart to dedicate himself to just one, a course of action which, at least in the eyes of this reporter, prevented Munzer from a bevy of Division I scholarship offers. 

“Part of me wishes that I focused on one sport,” said Munzer, when I led him in this direction during my interview of him. “But having a life outside of sports is important to me too.”        

There is a chance that he will not have to—at least not for a little while longer.  Currently a junior, Munzer has a shot at a career in baseball, depending upon how his final two seasons unfold.  In order to improve his game and put himself on the radar of MLB scouts, he spent this past summer competing in the West Coast League in Wenatche, Washington, with other baseball prospects from the region, many of whom play at Division I schools. By all accounts, Munzer held his own.  

Pericolosi corroborates Munzer’s pro potential. 

“If he continues to improve, I definitely think he has a chance to play professionally,” Pericolosi said. “As for pro tools, he has above-average speed, an above-average center field arm and has shown the ability to hit with wood against Division I arms. He had a great season in a very competitive wood bat league this past summer [the West Coast League.]”

In Munzer’s NCAA league—the SCIAC—he has performed well so far this year. Munzer got off to a somewhat slow start to the season but has hit his stride of late. In the Sagehens’ series against Occidental last week, Munzer batted 7-17 with three RBIs(Unfortunately, his stellar hitting was not enough to keep the Sagehens from dropping two of the three games). On the season, he is batting .361 with 11 RBIs.  He is on pace to improve upon his numbers from last season, when he hit .331 with 25 RBIs. As a first-year, Munzer finished with a .415 average and 45 RBIs.  

On the soccer field this fall, Munzer put together his best season yet for the Sagehens.  He captained the squad and started all 16 games as center back, often as the lone upperclassman out of the back four. When defending, Munzer is notorious for his balance of skill and tenacity; opponents rarely find a way around him, and, in the rare cases when they do luck upon a route, they typically end up sprawled out on the ground—victims to Munzer’s ferocious tackles. Munzer’s offensive contribution to the team comes mostly in the way of the free kicks that he rips at opposing goalkeepers from a variety of angles and distances. Recognizing his contributions this season, the team named Munzer MVP, expecting an even greater performance in his final year in the program. 

When I interviewed Munzer, the question needed to be asked: “Which sport do you prefer?” Although unwilling to pick a favorite sport, Munzer did comment on the similarities and differences between his soccer and baseball experiences. 

“The team dynamic is just about the same in both sports. There’s a real sense of camaraderie in the locker room,” he said.  He finds that he is forced to approach the games themselves in different ways. “In soccer, I can be really physical from the outset, and set the tone in that way. In baseball, with so much out of your control, you can’t show your intensity in the same kind of way, so I try to set the tone by getting a hit or making a play in the outfield.”           

I also asked Munzer about the amount of anxiety he feels with a potential professional career looming if he plays well enough. 

“I really don’t put a ton of pressure on myself. If pro baseball doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. I go to a 5C school for a reason, and I recognize that there are other things in life,” he said. 

Indeed, Munzer has always played the game—whichever game it happens to be—for the right reasons. 

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