Matthew Langston first picked up the bug while pretending to be dead.
On a lark, the Maplewood-Richmond Heights senior pitcher and infielder took a drama class when he was in seventh grade.
"I was bored and had nothing else to do," Langston said.
The lanky right-hander, who started banging around a baseball almost as soon as he could walk, mildly enjoyed the new endeavor.
So he was given a small part in the high school stage production of "Arsenic and Old Lace," the Joseph Kesselring classic.
It was there Langston began to realize there was more to life than baseball.
He poured himself into the minor role of one of the "dead bodies" who got recklessly thrown around the set throughout most of the play.
"From that moment on, I fell in love with the theatre," Langston said. "It was fun. It was challenging trying to be a whole different person."
Even if it was only a dead one.
Langston was hurled out a window, tossed across the stage and generally abused time and time again.
And he loved every minute.
"Back then I was shy and introverted," he said. "It brought me out of my shell."
Langston now is one of the top thespians at the school. He has appeared in countless plays and skits since that initial effort.
And it all started with one class — and a minor role as a dead person who couldn't move on his own.
"I remember I hurt my knee getting bounced around," he said. "I wouldn't tell anybody — didn't want to lose the part."
The performance was more than just a tiny role. It signaled the opening of a brand new person.
"He was bitten by the bug," said Holly Potthoff, the theatre director at Maplewood-Richmond Heights and the seventh-grade teacher who gave him his start. "At a very early age you could just tell he had a passion for it. He had talent. But more than anything, he loved it and you could see that in the way he worked so hard."
Langston now is the president of Thespian Troupe 3189, the group that puts on the plays throughout the school district. He considers acting just as important in his life as baseball.
On the diamond, Langston has been in Maplewood's starting lineup since his freshman campaign. A reliable innings eater on the hill, he also is deadly at the plate and usually plays shortstop when he is not pitching.
Langston spots a .333 batting average in two-plus seasons with 29 RBI. On the mound, he is 8-6 with 97 strikeouts and just 11 walks.
He led the Blue Devils in innings pitched as a freshman (48 2/3) and has been a stalwart ever since.
Just as importantly, he has been at the top of his class throughout his entire high school career. Langston is sixth in his graduating class and sports a 3.85 GPA.
"He's been as excellent as he could be from a student-athlete aspect and a coaching aspect," Maplewood baseball bench boss Jonathan Webb said. "The kind of person that you know is going to be successful no matter the direction he tries."
Langston has been able to make great strides in two totally different activities. He has been able to juggle the demands of athletics and fine arts masterfully.
His baseball teammates enjoying ribbing him due to his high-level acting skills.
After a recent stellar performance as "The Creature" in Mary Shelley's, "Frankenstein,” he was saddled with the nickname "Frankenstein" by those around him.
He loves it.
"We give him trouble sometimes," said Maplewood senior infielder/pitcher Cashen Schranz, who has been friends with Langston since the second grade. "But the fact that he's so good at something like that, it's really pretty impressive.
Langston loves being able to excel at two different activities.
"You look at me playing baseball and you wouldn't expect me to be theatre kid," he says.
Langston has spent a good majority of his on stage experience playing bad guys, which is the exact opposite of his personality.
"I try to be a nice person," he said. "That's what makes being (a bad guy) so much fun."
Langston has participated in dozens of plays, including "12 Angry Jurors," "Elephants’ Graveyard," and "Wait Until Dark."
As of now, he is not going to play baseball at Webster, instead choosing to study constitutional law.
Langston and his teammates carry high hopes into postseason play this week.
"This season is the most fun I've ever had playing a sport," Langston says, "Probably the most fun I’ve ever had doing anything in my life. Everything about it, it's so awesome. I smile every time I'm on the field now because I love it so much."