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Drawing by Mark Wiedmer / Chattanooga Christian School's Henry Horne

For the vast, vast majority of its existence, the corrugated steel storage building behind the Chattanooga Christian School tennis courts has housed the Chargers' tennis equipment. Nothing more, nothing less.

Not this spring, however. At least not always. Each time CCS has had a varsity baseball game on the same day it has had a varsity tennis match, that storage building has become to senior Henry Horne what the phone booth was to Clark Kent during his changeover to Superman.

On his way into the structure — assuming the tennis team has played first that day — Horne is the Chargers' No. 1 player in both singles and doubles, just as he has been since at least the start of his sophomore year.

But on his way out he morphs into CCS's catcher and the team's No. 1 hitter.

"He also leads us in doubles and stolen bases," said Chargers baseball coach Ben Wharton. "And this is the first time Henry's played baseball since the eighth grade. I can't imagine where we'd be without him."

Though a Monday night loss to Notre Dame ended this Chattanooga Christian season with a disappointing 3-15 record, Horne has been anything but disappointing since calling Wharton over Christmas break to ask if he could give baseball one more try.

"My (academic) schedule was a little lighter for senior year," said Horne, who ended the season batting .366 with three doubles, eight RBI and six stolen bases while throwing out five base runners. "I'd played here through the eighth grade and I just thought, 'Why not have the experience of playing a sport I love one last time?'"

Wharton was immediately intrigued, but he never expected Horne to have the baseball season he had after three years away from the sport.

"Obviously, I've been pleasantly surprised," the coach surmised. "And Henry's been a perfect addition to the team. He never complains about anything. He just wants to help the team."

That was never more so than on March 24th, when the Chargers were visiting Rhea County for a 7 p.m. baseball game less than three hours after Horne was scheduled to play both singles and doubles in a home tennis match against Boyd Buchanan.

"I didn't even have time to change," said Horne. "I just got in my car and headed for Rhea County."

And did he exceed the speed limit on the way there?

"Maybe just a little," he smiled.

Even with pressing the gas pedal on his Nissan Xterra a little harder than usual, the National Anthem was playing by the time Horne reached Rhea's baseball field.

"I had to change into my uniform in the dugout while they were standing for the Anthem," Horne recalled.

"Henry's batting third, and he was so late getting there he didn't get warmup swings or anything," said Wharton. "He just stepped right into the batter's box as soon as he got his uniform on."

What happened next has become "my favorite Henry story," the coach added.

Swinging at the very first pitch, Horne laced a double down the first base line. He finished 3-for-3 at the plate.

"It was just so matter of fact," said Wharton. "He just has this confidence about him. It's not cocky or arrogant. He just knows he's good."

If Horne believes that's been "my funniest moment" while attempting to play two sports on the same day, it hasn't been his only one. At least three times this year the 18-year-old has headed for that tennis storage building to change after a match before heading to the baseball diamond. Standing guard at those times has been sophomore teammate Stephen Reynolds, whose mother Melanie oversees the Chargers' overall tennis program and coaches the girls.

"I'm just there to protect the door, make sure the coast is clear," said Stephen. "He's the best player we've got."

Asked if those changeovers reminded him of Superman, young Reynolds chuckled and said, "Absolutely."

Such improvisation is now at an end. Horne will compete in the TSSAA Division II individual regional tennis tourney this weekend with an eye on qualifying for Spring Fling.

And while he'll probably enter few area tournaments this summer, his days of representing a school in any sport are likely at an end. Horne will enter the University of Tennessee in the fall, where he'll major in supply chain management. He expects to satisfy his athletic cravings by playing club tennis.

"For awhile, I wanted to play tennis in college," he explained. "And I've had some Division III and Division II offers. Covenant (College) has called a few times. But I was afraid playing on a college team would take away from my studies."

That doesn't mean he's not thrilled with his decision to be a two-sport athlete in the same season. From the quick changes to the quick at-bats to the time his baseball teammates came to cheer him in a doubles match — "They were really loud; I don't think they'd ever been to a tennis match before," he said — Horne wouldn't trade the past two months for anything, unless it might be to serve like his tennis hero Roger Federer.

"I knew it would be busy at times and it has been," Horne said Monday night after the Chargers' baseball season ended. "But I just wanted to have fun and I did."

Said Wharton, looking back on what was and what might have been, "I just wish we could have made this work for four years instead of one."

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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