Community colleges live in a state of flux. Students are constantly coming and going once they’ve met their requirements.
This is evidenced in Clark’s baseball team which is made up of 34 players, two-thirds of whom will be leaving after this season.
These sophomores helped propel Clark to its first 30 win season in history and its first playoff appearance in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges. Now that the season is over, coaches are already preparing for next season as some sophomores move on to the next level.
Sophomore Kyle Vanderkin, who plans on going to Gonzaga, said the success was partly because of how close the team is.
“The group of guys we got here is why we won 30 games. I’ve built some lifelong relationships and that’s what this is all about,” Vanderkin said.
Travis Eckert, MVP pitcher of the South Region, said he and his teammates were able to influence the freshmen.
“The freshmen that we helped out this year will have to do the same thing for the new guys coming in as well, so we’re the ones that keep it going,” Eckert said.
Freshman Brayden Maney, who led the team with a batting average of .362, credits some of his success to the impact the second year players had on him.
“The sophomores helped me a lot,” Maney said. “You come in not knowing exactly what’s going on and what to do, but these guys really took me under their wing.”
Head coach Don Freeman agreed and said, “The core of our baseball program is the sophomores and they provide a sense of leadership that sticks with the freshmen, and then the cycle continues.”
However, players can’t help Clark forever.
Eckert is going to the second ranked baseball team in the NCAA, the Oregon State Beavers.
“The biggest change will be the competition; the Pac 12 is arguably the best conference in the nation,” he said.
Sophomore Spencer Ramsey is transferring to Central Washington. Although he’ll be playing baseball at a Division II school, he said he knows that road will only lead him so far.
“You have to focus on what’s in front of you,” Ramsey said. “As a student athlete, my athleticism gives me an outlet to what I like to do, but you can’t neglect your studies because that sets you up for life,” he said.
One of the most famous quotes by Hall of Fame member Yogi Berra says, “Baseball is 90 percent mental, and the other half is physical.”
Vanderkin knows the importance of keeping a level head.
“Every single one of these players can play college ball, but believing that is the big part,” Vanderkin said.
Freeman said the focus of the team is now on recruiting and moving forward.
“As much as I love this group of guys, your program is only great if you’ve got the right people coming in,” Freeman said. “We can drop off just as fast as we jumped in.”
Assistant coach Rip Ramsey said as much as the team appreciates what the sophomores have done, he knows the players and the program are looking forward.
“We try to provide every player with tools they need so they can jump in anywhere they might go,” Ramsey said. “I know these guys are ready and wish them the best in the future.”