LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — With a home run in the top of the eighth inning on Tuesday, Georgia Gwinnett slugger Ajay Sczepkowski became the NAIA’s first-ever player to have a 30-home run, 30-stolen base season. The 24-year-old Pennsylvania native is hitting .429 on the season with 90 runs, 85 hits, 30 home runs and 36 stolen bases. As a team, Georgia Gwinnett has outscored its opponents in the last five games by a score of 99-10, as of May 17. The accomplishment of Sczepkowski is an incredible one, and he became the second collegiate player at any level to post a 30-30 season.
The air for this accomplishment is rarefied. At the MLB level, the feat has only been accomplished 62 times by 40 different players. The last to do it in the major leagues was Orioles outfielder Cedric Mullins in 2021 (30 home runs, 30 stolen bases), and the first to do it was Ken Williams of the 1922 St. Louis Browns (39 home runs, 37 stolen bases). The list of 30-30 MLB players includes Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Dale Murphy, Eric Davis, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds, Larry Walker, Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell, Alfonso Soriano, Vladimir Guerrero, Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Ronald Acuna Jr. At the collegiate level, Florida State star J.D. Drew became the first player in Division 1 to join the 30-30 club. In 1997 Drew hit for a .455 average with 106 hits, 31 home runs and 32 stolen bases on his way to winning the Golden Spikes Award and Baseball America Player of the Year.
Trusting the winding road is what got Sczepkowski to this point. A four-sport letterman at Governor Mifflin High in Shillington, Pa. he went to just one showcase and ended up signing with Harford (Md.) Community College. Sczepkowski credits his Harford coaches Tom Eller and Josh Houser for his increase in power at the collegiate level. Playing time was originally hard for Sczepkowski to find at the collegiate level. In 2018 Sczepkowski tore his labrum, in 2019 he tore his meniscus and in 2020 the coronavirus pandemic upended the college season. Deciding to return for a fourth year of junior college, Sczepkowski hit for a .326 average in 31 games, and transferred to Charleston Southern in 2022. As a Buccaneer in 2022, Sczepkowski played in 50 games, hitting over .300 while driving in 35 runs. Ultimately Sczepkowski decided to transfer again and found a home in Lawrenceville, Ga. at Georgia Gwinnett, reuniting with former Harford teammates Joe Quelch and Antonio Buckley The team is currently 49-5 and in the postseason.
When asked about the effect that Sczepkowski has on the field, Georgia Gwinnett head coach Jeremy Sheetinger was effusive in his praise.
“Ajay is a special talent,” Sheetinger said. “His ability to impact the game in so many ways commands attention. A Gold Glove in the outfield, a threat to steal every time he’s on base, and a knack for getting his best swing off lands him as one of, if not the best NAIA player in the country.”
When I asked Sczepkowski about how he felt in this accomplishment he immediately thanked his family for years of support and their effort together. He also had high praise for the Georgia Gwinnett baseball community, relaying that it has made the game fun again for him. When we spoke, Sczepkowski spent time thanking his coaching staff and especially Sheetinger for the influence he has had over him in the last year. Lastly he held in high regard Todd Louviaux, his travel ball coach who gave him an opportunity in baseball.
At the age of 24 Sczepkowski’s chances of hearing his name called during this year’s MLB draft are slim, although Sczepkowski can return to Lawrenceville for another year of eligibility. When we talked about his ultimate plans for life after college, he did express a desire to play professionally, and while he wasn’t opposed to the family business, he does want to come back to work in baseball when the time is right.
What Sczepkowski has done is an incredible mark for college baseball. To be a member of the 30-30 club is a special accomplishment, something that should be celebrated across all levels of baseball, especially in the collegiate collective. Sczepkowski’s achievements during the season included two three-homer games, one in March and one in April, with the latter against Talladega (Ala.) also highlighted by a seven-RBI performance, and he also stole three bases a few days before that in a game against Florida National. In 53 games played this season Sczepkowski has recorded 25 multi-hit games, 13 of which were games with three or more hits. He had eight multi-homer games and six games with multiple stolen bases. He also has 17 doubles and five triples on the season. Sczepkowski has been Georgia Gwinnett’s offensive catalyst for the entire season in a ballpark that is not known for its long ball presence: he’s hit 21 of his 30 home runs at home.
Sczepkowski is an exceptional player, but in talking with him you quickly understand that he’s like many of the other players at this level—a guy who took the winding road until he found he was in the right place. Every year we seem to find a team or a player that captivates this corner of the small college baseball world. What Sczepkowski has done deserves to be celebrated in history. Baseball began being played at the NAIA level in 1957 and over 23,000 days later it has its first 30-30 player. That is special.
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