Gap Between College and Pros Could Justify Spikes's Struggles

Sam FogelgarenCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2009

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 22:  The Louisiana State University Tigers and the Texas Longhorns line up for the national anthem before Game 1 of the 2009 NCAA College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium on June 22, 2009 in Omaha, Nebraska. The Tigers defeated the Longhorns 7-6 in 11 innings.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

“We’re playing every day. We get one day off in a month and a half. We have to come out and play every day. It’s way different in college,” says State College Spikes pitcher Jason Erickson.

The Spikes play in the New York Penn League, a short-season A ball league. The struggle between the college game and the professional game has been giving the Spikes problems since they arrived at State College in 2006. 

In the first three seasons of Spikes baseball, they are 93-131, including an 18-56 record last season.

Current Spikes manager Gary Robinson didn’t go as far to say that 2008 was a complete failure. Though Robinson was not managing the team at the time, he described it as a “transition” year.

“The situation would have been a difficult situation for anyone, even if Tommy Lasorda had that team,” Robinson said.

The Spikes have numerous players coming straight from college; 11 coming straight out of college this season alone. The transition from the college game to the professional game seems to be the problem for the Spikes, who are on pace for their third-straight losing season.

“Now, you play every day. You get more breaks in college,” Brock Holt said. “The transition from wood to metal (bats) is a big change, but it’s still baseball, and you got to go out and play it.”

The cause for the struggle of this team is not necessarily the talent difference between college and the pros, but the lack of off days. The Spikes have played 34 games so far this season, including three road trips, and have received just one off day on July 13th.

But don’t think that the Spikes are the only team faced with this challenge.

The Lowell Spinners, like the Spikes, have 11 players on their current roster coming directly from college this season. Though they have a better record than the Spikes, they are treading water at .500.

Though this challenge lowers the chances of success for the team, it might not necessarily be a bad thing for the players.

Players coming out of college and playing every day is what gets them acquainted with the style of professional baseball. The players, in a sense, benefit from the tough task they are presented with.

It isn’t the Jason Erickson’s of the world who are getting the short end of the stick. It’s the teams like the Spikes who are suffering.

For instance, compare the Spikes, a middle-of-the-road team at best, to the Brooklyn Cyclones who are dominating the league with a 21-10 record. Of players that have played 10 or more games with the team, the Spikes have 11 guys coming straight from college, and the Cyclones have seven.

Four additional inexperienced players can have a major impact on a team’s success. That is the difference between a 14-18 team (State College), and a 21-10 team (Brooklyn).


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