Mackey Sasser

Wallace College baseball coach Mackey Sasser said walk-ons will be part of college baseball more next year because of the impact of the COVID-19 virus.

Wallace College baseball coach Mackey Sasser feels bad for current high school seniors who want to play collegiate baseball.

A combination of factors — most by-products of the coronavirus pandemic — has resulted in high school baseball players having fewer opportunities to sign a scholarship this spring, says Sasser.

In fact the Govs coach believes most high school graduating players may have to walk-on to play at the next level, including at his program which is only allowed by the NJCAA to have only 24 scholarships.

“I have some kids that will be walking on this year for the simple fact that everything changed when the coronavirus hit and they (the NJCAA) gave us the opportunity to bring back the graduating sophomores with another year of eligibility,” Sasser said of a ruling that allowed sophomores an extra year because the COVID-19 virus halted the past season before the midway point.

“So I am bringing back about four or five of them (gradating sophomores) and that cut out some of the high school kids.”

That is not the only factor hurting high school seniors, says Sasser.

A move at the highest level of baseball — Major League Baseball — is also having an indirect impact. Executives at that level drastically shortened its amateur draft from its previous 40 rounds to five, limiting the number of selections from more than 1,000 to around 150. Most of those selections are expected to be NCAA Division I players.

Meanwhile, the NCAA, like the national junior college association, is also allowing graduating players to return for another year.

The combination of those two factors are keeping more players in college, preventing a road in for graduating high school kids.

The top levels of collegiate baseball are also looking at the NCAA transfer pool for talent. As of this week, more than 1,000 kids were seeking transfers to another school.

“Do you want to be competitive or do you want to sign and just get through,” Sasser said. “To be competitive, you have to sign some of those (top) kids, coming from Division I because they have a year of experience and some of them may have two years of experience with a redshirt already.”

From Sasser’s standpoint at Wallace, he also has to keep expenses down after a season where money flowing in was lower than normal.

“I usually make $10,000 off our tournament,” Sasser said of hosting the state tournament. “That funds a lot of stuff for me, but I am not getting that money this year so I have to be careful how many I have on my roster and how I do things.”

The COVID-19 also hurt high school seniors in overall recruiting. In addition to missing opportunities to impress college coaches with their high school season being cut short, the inability for coaches to visit them is non-existent.

“We have had a no travel ban and we can’t do anything with anybody,” Sasser said.

The good news, Sasser said, is the ban is scheduled to be lifted next Monday (June 1) and junior college coaches can start going to tournaments to watch players in action. He said there are already tournaments lined up in the Florida Panhandle in the next few weeks.

Still, it might be too late in some cases as kids, with less than four months before the college fall semester starts, may have had to set their academic plans in motion.

“The kids that are getting a bad deal in this thing are the high school seniors,” Sasser said of the overall landscape of college baseball recruiting for the spring.

David is sports writer for Dothan Eagle.

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