Canes Continue to Stock the Shelves of College Baseball Programs
The EvoShield Canes have established themselves as the premier training ground for players looking to reach the next level. It’s a bold claim, and yes, it is subjective. But the numbers give support to the Canes perch.
An NCAA Division I baseball roster can have up to 35 student-athletes. For the 2017 college baseball season, 194 former Canes players are on a current NCAA Division I baseball roster. By itself the Canes can produce more than five full rosters worth of NCAA Division I talent.
That’s not bold, that’s supreme. And undisputable.
The trend shows no signs of slowing down, either.
There are 24 players on the 2017 National 17u team. Twenty-three of those players are committed to a Division I institution. There are 22 players on the American 17u team. Twenty-one of those players are committed to a Division I institution.
One would be hard pressed to find a comparable program, one set to send kids to a Clemson or Dallas Baptist, Arizona State or Maryland. And it isn’t by mistake.
More than eleven years ago, in the fall of 2005, Canes founder Jeff Petty had a single goal in mind when the organization was in its formative years: getting kids to college.
“That's it, that was the focus,” said Petty, who also serves as CEO and president of the Canes. “My focus that fall was to get those kids college looks. None of them were committed to college at that point. Not one. I wanted that fall and the following summer, the fall of 2005 and summer of 2006, to be solely focused on helping those kids get college scholarships.”
The juggernaut that is the Canes at one time had no college commitments, which seems unfathomable. But so too would taking in the current state if one were to look into the future during its humble beginning.
In 2004, during Thanksgiving break, Petty, then a Physical Education teacher at Purnell Sweet High School in Maxton, North Carolina, returned to his hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia. There, at a Buffalo Wild Wings, Petty ran into a former high school teammate, Jeremy Bullock. At the time, Bullock was the sports manager for AAU Baseball and oversaw the annual AAU National Championship.
“He's like why don't you put a team down at the AAU National Championships this summer,” Petty said. “I got to thinking about it…I loved the idea of it. I started to keep my eye out for players that were 16 years old that could make an impact on this team I was going to put together and bring down to Florida.”
It would be an understatement to say Petty found a team that could make an impact. Petty, along with JP Hansen, another high school teammate, and Dan Barzo, a teammate of Petty’s at UNC-Pembroke, led the team to a 10-0 start to the tournament. The lone blemish, then the Carolina Hurricanes, on their record would be a loss in the national championship game to Chet Lemon’s Juice.
“That was our first experience, ever. We played really well down there,” Petty said. “Then, everyone is asking what are we going to do this fall?”
That’s when Petty started out on his mission. Petty arranged for his team to play at local colleges doing everything he could to get his team full of uncommitted players an opportunity to play at the next level.
“Our goal is, if we put a kid in a uniform, we're going to try to see it through and that kid get a scholarship, that's our goal. All of our teams.”
In pursuit of that goal, Petty isn’t afraid to tell a player, or several hundred, the Canes aren’t the right fit for them.
“We cut 200-something kids a year because we will look at a kid at a tryout, and if we evaluate him and don't think he can play in college at any level, that can be Division III, II or I, I'm not going to waste that player's time and their parent's resources.
“If I think the kid can play baseball in college, Divison I, II or III, or junior college, we'll give that kid an opportunity and we will try to help him find the right fit.”
In an amateur sports environment where every day someone is sharing their disdain over the rampant use of participation trophies, Petty understands there is a time and place for all those who want to play baseball, to be able to do so. But to be a Cane, a player has to be special in their ability and have a pursuit of being a college baseball player.
“Nothing against programs that take kids that can't play in college or they play their entire high school career under their umbrella without receiving a scholarship offer,” Petty said. “Not even playing baseball at all – that end up joining a fraternity when they get to college - nothing against those programs. But that's not what we're about at all.
From the first fall ball team of the Carolina Hurricanes, to today, where Petty says Canes has more than 50 players committed to play in college, what Canes Baseball is about remains true to their sole focus.
“I want people to think that when they see our name next to their name, they have to play us, that they're getting ready to play a team that is well-coached, well-prepared and every kid on the team has a shot to play college baseball.
“It's because of Dan Gitzen, our GM, and my mission and our coaches. We have great coaches sprinkled throughout our program. We're lucky we have good baseball people.”
With 44 out of 46 players over their two 17u teams committed, the players have their shot and Canes opponents can’t miss it nor find it an easy to duplicate, the Black and Gold will reign supreme.
“We had 95 kids sign scholarship in our 2017 class. You can't put 95 kids on one roster. Program depth is there for us.”
And that depth will allow the Canes to continue to stock the shelves of college baseball programs for years to come.