With so many leagues and levels in the sports world, it is easy and understandable to get confused.
Club baseball is a sport that I find many don’t completely understand. With Plant City building a reputation for being the home of spring training for collegiate club baseball, it’s important to clear up some questions some may have, and as someone who actually played a year of collegiate club baseball, I’m happy to do just that.
The first thing is club baseball is separate from NCAA baseball. The teams you will see playing this month at Mike E. Sansone Park are not the same ones that will play in Omaha, Neb., on ESPN for the College World Series.
Club baseball teams generally carry the same school name and mascot as their NCAA counterpart, but club teams are not sanctioned NCAA teams. Players are non-scholarship athletes, and teams usually have significantly lower budgets.
Given my experience, the year I played for GSU, we had to supply our own equipment and coordinate travel among the players. That’s right — no matching bat bags and no fancy charter buses or planes for travel. If we were lucky, we were able to borrow one of the school’s vans for road trips, because we were an officially recognized student organization/club.
We wouldn’t play as many games as the NCAA team, mainly because we couldn’t afford it. Still, we would practice several times a week to play just a few regular season games in a season.
Which brings me to my next point: the dedication level seen in club baseball. It’s something Dave Townsend (see story at right) noticed when he first discovered club baseball. The athletes who play college club baseball do it because they love the game. As someone who knows what that means, let me assure you — it is a serious thing.
I can admit the reason I only played one year was my dedication level wasn’t as high as others on my team. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my time traveling, playing and practicing with my teammates, but to play club baseball takes significant time — time that I struggled to find with full class schedule and involvement with the student media department at my school. Ironically, my first job with my college’s newspaper was as the beat writer for the NCAA baseball team.
Although my time with club baseball was short-lived, I had the chance to get some insight on what makes the sport so special. I saw many similarities in the teams I photographed recently here in Plant City.
Chatting with one of the teams, they told me this was their fourth year coming to Plant City for spring training and that they have enjoyed every minute of it. They came all the way down from Michigan in vans.
You’re talking about a 20-hour drive, one-way. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is.
Perhaps the biggest misconception with club baseball is the quality of play. After playing teams such as South Carolina and Florida in college and now seeing teams such as Indiana and Kentucky play in local Plant City parks, there are plenty of talented athletes on display. Several of my former teammates were high school standouts. A few were former players on the NCAA team at my school or at other colleges.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to make it out to some of these spring training games, I highly recommend doing so. And if you have a Little Leaguer in your house, bring them along. I know they will love it, as well.AirCrack aircrack ng