Catonsville High’s Ben Hall played baseball and basketball with an unwavering passion, determination and intense desire to win that helped him overcome any obstacles he faced during his senior year.
Hall, the 2019 Catonsville Times Male Athlete of the Year is diabetic, but that didn’t slow down his endless motor playing guard on the basketball court.
It certainly didn’t bother him on the mound where the right-hander was the Comets ace.
Baseball coach Eric Warm, who took over for athletic director Rich Hambor this season, saw his energy on the baseball diamond and the basketball court, where Hall was a physical education leader, who helped out with fourth period gym classes.
“I would sit there watching him running and jumping and getting rebounds and you would think he was wearing himself out and I always wanted to tell him to stop, but it’s what he had been doing and he was successful, so we just let it go,” Warm said. “All year long his motor just never stopped, whether he was in class playing or out of the field, he just never stopped.”
Warm noted Hall never used being diabetic as an excuse.
“You wouldn’t even know it if you didn’t see it in his paperwork,” Warm said.
His strong work ethic led to an outstanding statistical resume on the 14-5 baseball squad.
On the mound, pitching in 11 games, the lanky right-hander posted a 3-1 record with two saves.
The workhorse started four games and pitched 36 innings in 11 games to the tune of a 1.15 earned run average.
He finished with 37 strikeouts and only 11 walks.
“All he wanted to do was pitch, so I knew he was going to be very valuable with my pitchers, but I did not realize how good he was going to finish up the year,” Warm said.
Hall, who also played second and third base, was selected to the All Baltimore County and All-Division first teams.
After the season, he played in the Baltimore County Senior All-Star Classic and in the MSABC Classic at the Naval Academy.
“I pitched two innings, had some walks but didn’t give up any runs, it was awesome,” said Hall, of his experience pitching at the Naval Academy.
His work at Catonsville High was more impressive.
“When he came in, he was fired up, he was a competitor and he always looked really angry out there, just all business, just very focused and he wanted the ball in his hands and he wanted the bat in his hands,” Warm said.
Hall wanted to do anything possible to help the team win.
“For me personally, I hate losing and I also hate people that don’t take passion in winning, so I was trying to get my teammates fired up at the same time,” Hall said.
Warm sometimes needed to calm down the emotional ace.
“There were a few times where I had to walk out to the mound and tell him to just relax,” Warm said. “He wore his emotions on his sleeve.”
That didn’t stop him from pitching Hall in tight games where he frequently prevailed.
In the Comets’ 9-6 early-season comeback victory over Towson, Hall had his most dominating performance when he struck out eight batters in three relief innings.
“I think when I came in we were either down one or tied, it was close, but in the first inning I pitched I had three straight strikeouts and in the next inning I had two straight,” Hall said.
The senior was intimidating and confident on the mound and proved it multiple times.
“Going into the season, I knew that if we were going to win some games I was going to have to pitch a lot and Warm told me if my arm was bothering me, just tell him, and every game I pitched I never had any issues with my arm,” Hall said.
Against Eastern Tech, he pitched four hitless innings with five strikeouts in a 3-2 extra-inning triumph.
Hall also drove in the tying run with a clutch single in the seventh inning and the Comets won it in the eighth on Sam Brown’s run-scoring single.
“He was difficult to hit because he had some nasty off-speed stuff to go along with a lively fastball, Warm said. “He was throwing low 80s and his off-speed pitches were his go-to pitches. He had a lot of strikeouts with those off-speed pitches.”
His mental approach allowed him to control some of the top opposing hitters.
“He had deceptive ball movement because he was tall and he had those long arms and he figured batters out quickly, so he knew what guys didn’t like while they were up there,” Warm said.
He batted .368 at the plate, and four of his 21 hits were doubles. Hall also walked seven times, scored 10 runs and had 11 RBIs.
“He is just a baseball player and he was willing to go wherever we asked him to help the team out,” Warm said. “He was willing to do whatever we needed him to do and he was a huge part of our 14-win season.”
On Senior Day against Lansdowne, Hall went 4-for-4 with a double.
He plans to continue playing baseball at Garrett College where he wants to study sports journalism.
“I wanted to go to junior college so I could build up my velocity and then try to play Division I afterwards,” Hall said. “I looked at a few other schools and I really liked Garrett the most.”
He doesn’t plan to play basketball at Garrett after being a co-captain on the basketball team at Catonsville with Tyree Holmes.
“He exhibited a willingness to improve and leadership qualities and he was hard-working,” first-year coach Dennis Keihm said. “I was really hard on Ben.”
Like baseball, Keihm was Hall’s second varsity coach in two seasons and it was a bumpy transition at first.
“At the tryouts in the beginning of the season, he told me he didn’t think I would be playing as much and it kind of put a chip on my shoulder and it kind of made me push harder and harder in practice,” Hall said. “After the first week of practice, he told me I was going to be captain and it was difficult because it was two completely different coaches and it was two different methods of how we played, but I’m just like a hard-nosed player, so I put my head down and just did what he said and played for him.”
Hall averaged seven points and three rebounds a game, but his assist to turnover rate was 93 percent. He also shot 24 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
He had one of his best performances in a 57-55 overtime loss to Parkville when he scored 14 points and had only one turnover in 31 minutes despite cramping up late in the game.
“That was another big issue I had this year, I feel like I didn’t hydrate myself enough, but that game I was cramping up late and I started getting a little lazy legs, but I still hit some big shots down the stretch, but when I came out with like three minutes left, it was hard to get back in and get it going again,” Hall said.
Keihm was aware he was diabetic and made sure his managers had a juice box ready for him at halftime.
“Every game after halftime he would make me drink the juice box,” Hall said.
“It was probably his best game when he shot the ball real well at Parkville,” Keihm said.
The Parkville game earned him respect in the next contest against Kenwood when they played a box and one on him.
“The whole game, no matter where I went there was somebody in my face,” Hall said.
“Ben was just one of those kids that just laid it out,” Keihm said. “I could see when he would start to fatigue and he would fight me about coming out. Ben just didn’t want to come out even when no one had a more legitimate excuse.”
The 3-17 hoop squad won three games in a row and played some good teams close during a stretch, but six players left the team for various reasons and they finished the season with nine players.
“It was awesome they stuck it out,” Hall said. “Even though we were having a struggling season, there is no point in quitting.”
There was definitely no quit in Hall.
“Ben led by example,” Keihm said. “Ben played just as hard in our last game as he did in our first game and nobody enjoyed winning more than Ben and was unhappy or struggled with losing more than Ben, but he never let each game carry over to the next.”
Keihm often reminded his team of the answer to the question of what’s the most important play in the game?
“It’s the next one, because it’s the only one you have any control over and Ben epitomized that,” said Keihm, noting Hall led the team in minutes played. “We could lose three in a row and Ben was out there on game four diving for loose balls.”