Not only has COVID-19 halted baseball season for college and high school athletes, but it has also changed the way colleges and even the Major Leagues are recruiting their prospects. Head coach of College of the Desert’s baseball team, Sam DiMatteo has educated himself on the current situation to provide the best insight to young, student-athletes.
“With eligibility not counting and kids staying and the new high school kids coming in, and even with pro ball, less draft spots, and less affiliated teams and guys that would normally be playing pro baseball, are kind of also running into that, that jam up, and it’s really almost affecting everyone from the top all the way down to the bottom. It’s a crazy thing to see happen here.”
The NCAA and NAIA on all levels have given the 2020 spring athletes an extra year of eligibility and on top of the MLB draft being cut more than half this year, you can bet that a lot of ballplayers looking to go pro are staying an extra year in college.
One of those ballplayers is Bryan Leef, a SoCal native, and Palm Springs Power alum who is taking advantage of an extra year of availability by continuing his baseball career at the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky.
“It definitely affects everybody throughout the country, myself and everybody who wants to play professionally because it’s a lot harder to get drafted. I definitely want to play at the professional level, that’s the reason why I’m still playing and why I love to play every day, and the reason I’m opting into coming back this year. So with the whole COVID situation, I look at it as a positive. I can come back show my skills, and complete the season. I’m going to try and play as much as I can, as well as my teammates, they all want to come back and play. And hopefully, some of us or any of us get picked up in the MLB draft.”
Coach DiMatteo has a decent grasp on what this new backup jam in the baseball world could mean for young athletes, which is why he is encouraging them to be open to other possibilities.
“Every player’s situation is going to be different, every program’s situation going to be different, so it’s just really important for athletes right now to really understand, which college that they’re going to or the college is interested in them and you want to be on the field. You don’t want to be two, three years behind a bunch of older guys, and then you go somewhere and there’s not a lot of playing time.”
Along with that, DiMatteo has heard more about the level of competition in junior and community colleges this year.
“I’ve heard just through word of mouth, and it makes sense to me is that Junior College is going to be the most competitive it’s ever been because of that, you know, because of a lot of these good players that are like ‘well, I’m going to stay away from a four year and I’m going to go here because I don’t want to run into that log jam.”
Introducing Braden Schiffner, Braden is a current high school senior from Denver, Colorado, and he is bringing his talents to the COD baseball program. Braden is positive that this was the best decision for his baseball career.
“I didn’t think I wasn’t getting any attention from any of the big schools in California. That’s why coach DiMatteo made it very clear to me that he thought that there was, a good spot for me to come in and have a chance to play even with all the kids staying with their extra year.” I’m really excited to get out there and play at the next level and get to some warm weather.”
During these times of COVID-19, all young athletes can do is have hope. Hope that sports will come back and hope that you’re making the right decision, all while continuing “the grind” to achieve your dreams, take it from DiMatteo.
“Have big goals have big dreams, always do that stuff, but you also have to be reasonable on what’s going on with the current situation is you got to make adjustments on the fly. I mean, that’s life.”