More than 40 million children play organized sports today, and fewer than 5 percent who graduate from high school will be good enough to play a varsity college sport.
No major revelation there. Some kids are college athlete material and some aren’t. But that doesn’t mean their love of the game dissolves at the end of high school.
Anyone out there who has loved sport is aware of the disheartening odds of making it to the college level. But college students have the opportunity to continue playing the game they love through club sports such as ECU’s club baseball program.
Collegiate club sports programs offer students the outlet to be competitive, the chance to showcase their individual talents, and the experience of being able to represent their school on a national level.
Club sports are swiftly rising in popularity, a largely unnoticed phenomenon sweeping across campuses nationwide. There are no athletic scholarships or adoring crowds; only those who are truly enamored with sport are motivated to pledge their time and talent.
Patrick Williams, the ECU team’s starting pitcher, is a club baseball veteran. Williams, born and raised in Aurora, is a rising senior majoring in industrial distribution and technology and has been part of the club baseball team since his freshman year.
“A lot of people think that the competition at this level isn’t that great, but that’s not true at all. There are so many good ballplayers on our team and that we compete against,” says Williams. “A goal for our team is to make it to the club baseball college world series. We all have fun competing and we want to win. Winning is fun for us. When we play in-state rivals like UNC, N.C. State, and Wake Forest, we know we represent ECU and we want to go out there and play to the best of our abilities.”
According a report from the New York Times, “an estimated two million college students play competitive club sports compared with about 430,000 involved in athletics governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.”
Thanks to highly organized club sports programs, like ECU Club Baseball, college students are choosing to continue their involvement in sport.
In the case of ECU Club Baseball, the Pirates are turning heads across the country.
Schools that share top 20 recognition with the Pirates include the universities of Arizona, Maryland, Florida, Oregon, Texas and Virginia Tech, just to list a few.
The popularity and prestige of ECU Club Baseball has grown rapidly over the past few years, and with popularity has come a sense of privilege for those students who can say they hold one of the coveted 23 spots on the Pirate’s team roster.
“Each year, close to 70 kids will try out for the team,” says Gray Hodges, assistant director of Club Sports.”
This year, the team’s recognition expanded beyond our Emerald City when the success and talent of several players warranted the national spotlight for the first time in program history.
On June 18th the National Club Baseball Association released the official listing of 2009 club sports All-Americans.
First team NCBA all-Americans from ECU included second baseman Casey Ide and starting pitcher Patrick Williams. Second team NCBA All-American honors were awarded to outfielder Nicholas Morrison, and relief pitcher Andrew Danak.
In addition, the NCBA recognized several Pirates as top hitting and pitching talents: Nicholas Morrison for leading in home runs (5), Jerrod Bornman for runs scored (40), and stolen bases (28), and Dennis Butts for RBIs (36).
ECU went on to attend the 2009 National Club Baseball Regional Tournament, which was held in Chesapeake, Va., on May 9, & 10.
The colleges that accompanied the Pirates to the last dance before the National Club Baseball Association World Series were James Madison University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Maryland. Although the Pirates ultimately suffered a season-ending loss to the University of Maryland, ECU succeeded this year in making it closer to the club world series than it ever has in the past.
With high levels of organization and regulation, club baseball has given birth to new sports rivalries in 22 conferences. The growing competition partnered with the growing depth of talent has resulted in a rapidly growing club baseball fan base.
And who is the man behind the team’s success? That would be Coach Joe Carracci. This was Carracci’s fourth year leading the program. Players claim that he not only is “an easy guy to get along with,” but that he also “makes playing the game fun.” Carracci says his program is “highly organized and that the players practice year-round.”
“The kids appreciate how serious we take it. This program is not only an outlet to play a competitive sport, but adds structure to their school day,” says Carracci.
Carracci values the dedication his players exhibited this season, saying, “I’ve learned a lot from the guys. I’m very appreciative for the group I have and how dedicated the Club Sports office has been in supporting our program.”
And how will Patrick Williams react when playing baseball at the college level is over?
“I hate to hang up my cleats just yet,” said the pitcher whose fastball was clocked at 93 mph this year. “I guess when I’m done playing in college I’ll play softball or something. I think that’s what you do when you get older.”
Students who are interested in trying out for ECU Club Baseball or learning more about the team can visit http://www.ecu.edu/org/clubbaseball/
For additional tryout information email head coach Joe Caracci at email@example.com.