Club baseball team offers it all to playersBy Cody Estremera | 03/03/2016 9:59am
The club baseball team will play Ole Miss on March 6-7. Photo courtesy of Ian Villaluz
A majority of high school athletes don't get the opportunity of continuing to play their sport in college for a variety of reasons. Players who wish to hold on to their sport, but maybe not at the collegiate level, however, can go on to play club sports. Some athletes find that happy medium on The University of Alabama club baseball team.
“I would have had chances to play at small schools and a couple big schools like a lot of other guys here, but I have a full ride here,” senior Mark Smith said. “I wanted to get the education I wanted, for the price I wanted and also have competitive baseball that didn’t take over my life.”
The club team believes it has steadily improved. Three years ago, it was a Division II club and made it to the regional tournament. The following year, it moved up to the Division I league, making it to regionals again. Now this year, the team looks to make regionals for its third consecutive year and make some damage.
“The way we’ve been playing, and the talent we have on this team, I don’t even think we’ve hit our best baseball yet,” senior Zach Imburgia said.
With its best yet to come, Smith believes his team has everything it needs to make a run in regionals. He said the team just needs to bind together and work.
Since joining the club baseball team four years ago, Smith believes that this year's team is the best one yet, and not just because of the talent but because of the players themselves.
Club sports provide a family-like atmosphere, and the baseball team did just that for Smith. He said he believes any club sport offers a great group atmosphere when a student first comes to college. Baseball just happened to be his, and the rest of his teammates, niche.
“I’ve met a lot of [people]; my great friends have come from this team," freshman Bailey Whitten said. "I wouldn’t have met them if I hadn’t come here. I don’t regret coming here at all instead of playing college baseball."
Whitten and his teammates are still getting to competitively play the sport they love. The season just started for the Crimson Tide club baseball team, and it has six more weeks until regionals start. It has already defeated other big-name schools, such as LSU and Georgia, and has a 4-2 record.
“The Georgia win was big because Georgia is one of the leaders in our conference, and to take two out of three is a big deal,” Whitten said.
Alabama will play Ole Miss on March 6-7 at Bryant High School.
Although winning and making it to regionals is important to the team, sports in general aren’t everything to the players.
“We all like being with each other and the competition, but we are all here for school," Smith said. "It’s a good balance of having fun and being competitive, but at the same time knowing school is first."
Playing a club sport allows the athletes to still play the sport they love but not at such an extreme level. Imburgia said the best part about it all is the fact that he is able to play baseball still. He didn't have to give it up after high school. He got to squeeze in four more years.
“This is my last year to play competitively for the rest of my life," he said. "I just want to milk every ounce of it we have because we love the sport."