Unconventional Path Through College Baseball Awaits Some Juco Players
Our language does not yet have the words to fully explain college eligibility in a coronavirus-affected world.
In 2019, Matthew Cedarburg arrived at College of Central Florida as a promising freshman. He hit .360/.389/.380 in 15 games before his season ended prematurely because of an ankle injury. Because his season ended early, he was able to take a redshirt year.
In 2020, Cedarburg was healthy and one of Central Florida’s best players. He hit .367/.438/.541 while playing 26 of the Patriots’ 28 games. In 2021, he is expected to be the team’s everyday third baseman.
And next year, in 2022, Cedarburg will likely head to a four-year college. He will arrive as a redshirt freshman with close to 100 games of Juco experience.
He’s not alone. The same could be said for Crowder (Kan.) shortstop Ian Ortiz. Ortiz is set to be the team’s shortstop this year after playing extensively last year and being redshirted in 2019. He’s committed to head to Eastern Kentucky for the 2021-2022 season and he’ll arrive with as much remaining eligibility as a current high school senior.
This is necessary because not all junior colleges are playing baseball this year. An entire conference in the Dallas area just announced it will not have a spring season. Colleges in California have until February to decide whether they are playing this season or not.
Welcome to what will be the unusual world of junior college baseball in the age of the coronavirus. So there are players like Cedarburg and Ortiz all around the country who are entering their third year of JUCO ball who will leave this year as redshirt freshmen.
And when they arrive at four-year colleges in 2022, they will have four years of eligibility remaining, meaning that some players who first set foot onto a college campus in 2018 could still be playing college baseball in 2025 as seventh-year seniors.