Of Georgia baseball’s 44 players on its roster, 41 are from inside the state of Georgia. At 93%, the baseball team has the largest makeup of in-state athletes of any of Georgia’s 19 varsity teams.
Georgia has the second-highest percentage of in-state players within the SEC, only behind Florida, with 97% of the Gators’ roster coming from in-state.
“Georgia is very deep,” said head coach Scott Stricklin. “And it’s north, south, east, west, it doesn't matter. Obviously, metro Atlanta gets a lot of publicity, but there’s [also] a lot of great players in South Georgia.”
Before Georgia’s players joined each other in Athens, they often played against and with one another in high school, whether it be for their schools or with a travel baseball organization.
Redshirt junior outfielder Ben Anderson went to LaGrange High School before competing at Furman and later transferring to Georgia. He played in the same travel baseball organization as Ryan Webb and went to the same high school as Logan Moody.
“I really knew those two guys [when transferring to Georgia]. I knew some of the other names just from playing against them in travel ball,” Anderson said. “So, those two guys really brought me in and welcomed me to the team to introduce me to everybody.”
One place, one time
Players compete with each other in Georgia partly because of the facilities in the state. One of Georgia’s largest baseball facilities is LakePoint in Cartersville. Prior to 2020, LakePoint hosted Perfect Game baseball tournaments.
Perfect Game is a national baseball organization that works to provide “meaningful opportunities and information to players, families, MLB organizations, college coaches and fans.” according to its website.
Greg Sabers, Perfect Game’s vice president of showcases and scouting, said one of the organization’s goals is to bring all the best players together to make it easier for scouts and coaches to watch games.
“High school baseball is great but sometimes the best players might be spread out on 100 high school teams across the state,” Sabers said. “So, you can get them all playing together at one location to help them all be seen.”
Sabers said that Perfect Game also makes player stats public to coaches and the general public, but shares advanced stats on players with college coaches. Tournaments not only give scouts an opportunity to watch players at one place but also at one time.
While Georgia is playing its regular season, so are high school teams. This makes it harder for college coaches to watch high school games in person. As a result, Stricklin said he has to watch a lot of video to see potential recruits in action while coaching the Bulldogs in the regular season.
“I'm on social media way too much,” Stricklin said. “We hear from scouts, we hear from high school coaches, we hear from summer coaches, we just can’t see them in person. So, we’re just watching a lot of video.”
Recruiting during COVID-19
In a normal season, video was just one tool college coaches used to recruit. With COVID-19 limiting face-to-face interactions between coaches and players, coaches are forced to use video even more.
The same effects are noticed at Perfect Game, as Sabers said the biggest change is not getting to see players face-to-face in the summer. As a result, Sabers said Perfect Game has streamed more games online and communicated with coaches even more than before.
Prior to the start of the 2021 MLB season, there were 42 players from Georgia on MLB rosters. This ranked fourth in the country behind California (150), Florida (74) and Texas (61).
“Baseball traditionally, it's always been Florida, California and Texas are your big three states,” Sabers said. “And then Georgia has really made a push to kind of be that next fourth state the last five-to-10 years with a lot of top travel programs.”
Georgia is one of the most talent-rich states in the country, and the Bulldogs are taking advantage of that by recruiting players from in-state. As many on the roster have spent pre-college days together, they’re seeing each other improve from their time in high school to playing in college.
Freshman pitcher Jaden Woods said “five or six” players on Georgia’s roster played with one another on the Team Elite travel baseball organization since they were 16 years old.
“We really bonded very well before college,” Woods said. “And getting into college just to see our growth and how good we’ve become from the time in travel ball and now, it’s really good to see.”