Junior College (aka JUCO) may be the most misunderstood level for college baseball opportunities. This interview with Noah Sharp will help dispel some common myths, for example...
- JUCO is a last resort option: NOT in the baseball world. MANY athletes use it as their first option, leading to countless academic and athletic success stories.
- JUCO quality of baseball is low: On the contrary, you will likely see pitching in the 90s and play against many athletes that will move on to D1 baseball, or even professional baseball. In addition, there is a Fall and Spring season, teams can play up to 70 games per year, providing MANY opportunities to play and develop.
- No athletic money is available: Definitely wrong! There can be up to 24 scholarships offered, more than D1 or D2 baseball.
- Transferring credits to complete a 4 year degree is difficult: Actually, with the right planning you will get credit for most (if not all) of your JUCO courses. In addition, a high GPA at JUCO is very much respected and can lead to additional academic scholarship money.
Noah took the time to answer our questions about JUCO. He has his own podcast that is all about JUCO baseball. Just search for "The Juco Podcast" on your favorite platform. You can also find him online at https://thejbb.net/. He is on Twitter, look for @The_Noah_Sharp.
Enjoy the interview below!
Trent: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you give us a little background? Why do you have a passion for JUCO baseball and how do you help spread the word?
Noah Sharp: I grew up playing baseball like almost every kid. I played in high school and had some looks from scouts, but got hurt and decided to stop playing. I ended up going to school at Howard, a JUCO in west Texas. I became one of their athletic training students and had no idea about their baseball program. Once at Howard, I was lucky enough to work with the baseball team for three years. That experience taught me a lot about the JUCO level. I graduated from Howard and also went on to earn my 4 year degree. Next, I moved to Oklahoma where I started a Blog that covered many topics and evolved into my passion for JUCO baseball. I made this my focus because I believe it is one of the most underrated and under-publicized sides of college baseball. Unless you have experienced it, then you don't really give it the credit that it deserves.
It is sad to me that people don't know more about JUCO, as there are several current and former MLB guys that played at this level. Bryce Harper, Charlie Blackmon, Jose Batista, Ian Kinsler just to name a few.
There are three primary sources for information on Junior College baseball information outside of the NJCAA / CCCAA / NWAC. You can find me on Twitter (@The_Noah_Sharp) and on a website that has helped me grow exposure (https://thejbb.net/). Another great source for JUCO stuff is Perfect Games JUCO guy, Brian Sakowski (@B_Sakowski_PG) who looks more at JUCO draft stock. Finally there is the @jucoroute Twitter account that shares stuff about all the schools across the country and has a very cool clothing line.
Trent: I believe that many people think of JUCO as a last resort, perhaps because of the football world and "Last Chance U" on NetFlix! Why is this perception not accurate for baseball?
Noah: That is a really good question. In my opinion, people who think it is their last chance don't know much about the junior college route. Perhaps some guys that view it as a last chance do so because they think that they are better than JUCO. In reality, they do not understand how much talent is there. It is true that for some, regardless of their sport, it is either their best option or their only option to try and keep doing what they love to do. Many of these players get a great start to their education and then move on to a D1 or D2 opportunity.
Trent: How does the quality of baseball in JUCO compare to D1 - D3?
Noah: Talking about the quality can be tricky. Guys can bounce around from D1 or D2 to JUCO. But baseball is still baseball. Depending on what region you are in, you can face a guy throwing 95 every single time out. Also, there are guys who can flat out hit. So there is talent all throughout the country when it comes to the JUCO level. On top of that, a lot of schools in the Fall play 4 year schools (D1, D2, D3) so that players can get looks from those schools. Believe it or not, those games are often very competitive!
Trent: What about the academic quality? Also, are there a lot of different options for majors?
Noah: All of these schools are colleges where you earn an Associates degree in 2 years, and can then move on to earn your Bachelor degree (or not). The quality varies (just like with any level of college). When it comes to the degree or majors they are generally the basics (in Science, Math, English, etc.), and can also let you get a start on a specialty.
All of this is at a lower cost than similar general classes at a 4 year school.
Trent: How easy is it to transfer credits if the player finishes at a 4 year school?
Noah: Transferring is really easy. Most 4 year Universities accept all transfer credits. It's not like taking a dual credit in high school, where you may not get credit. As long as you make the grades they should transfer. The only real problem you might face is if you go to a Juco in Florida and then transfer to a school in California where the requirements for things might be a bit different. But generally the classes you take will transfer.
Trent: Do JUCO programs have baseball scholarship money they can offer? How does it compare to D1 and D2 programs?
Noah: This is also covered in a recent blog article that I posted. The way Junior colleges do scholarships is a similar method to a 4 year school.
Of the 4 year schools, D1 has the most scholarships to offer at 11.7. A JUCO can have up to 24 scholarships to split how they want across their roster.
Please keep in mind, if you only get a partial scholarship, the amount that you would have to pay out of pocket would be much less than the cost of a 4 year school. Also, there are grants and other scholarships that you can apply for.
Trent: There are many JUCO success stories, what are some key risks to watch out for?
Noah: I really don't know any significant risks. When you go to a Junior college you are generally going to get more playing time early, more exposure, and more development on the field. The only real risk would be slacking in the classroom and messing up your grades. But on the field, there really is no risk.
Trent: How possible is it for a player to finish their education at a 4-year school AND play baseball there? Do they have to sit out a year before they can play again?
Noah: When you transfer from a Junior College to a University you do not have to sit out a year. If you have watched the "Last Chance U" series, you heard the term bounce back and that refers to the guys transferring from D1 or D2 to a JUCO, and then going back to D1 or D2. Baseball works the same way.
Sitting out is not required when transferring, you can come in and make an impact right away.
Trent: Finally, what is your favorite JUCO success story?
Noah: So success stories are plentiful and I could probably go on about these forever. In addition to the many stories of players who go on to D1 or even MLB fame, I like the personal stories. A story that sticks out to me is a player who went to Howard in Texas (where I went) after 3 deployments in active duty Army as a mortar gunner. After one year at Howard, he was signed by the Defending National Champs at the NAIA level - Southeastern out of Florida. SO, this veteran will have two great years at Howard and then will be able to finish his baseball and academic experience at Southeastern. What a great story!
If you have any questions for Noah Sharp, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.