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Lost Season Creates Unexpected Roster Crunch for College Baseball

Cody Nespor

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Roster management in college baseball is different than roster management in any other college sport.

College baseball has a hard roster limit of 35 players, 27 on scholarship, and it is the only sport where high school recruits can be selected in a professional draft. Both the NFL and NBA do not allow for high schoolers to be taken in their respective drafts, but MLB has no such restrictions.

That means college baseball coaches have to account for who among their current players may leave to go professional or transfer, but they also have to account for incoming recruits that could end up turning pro, all while working with a hard roster limit.

WVU head coach Randy Mazey said the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak are only going to make roster management that much more difficult.

“As baseball coaches with the draft and not know what your team will look like, we’re in the business of managing rosters,” Mazey said on a video conference Wednesday morning. “As soon as it all went down and they said seniors could come back we have our coaches meeting and get together and figure out how we’re going to pull it off.”

After all Spring championships were canceled, effectively ending Spring athletics, the NCAA announced that would-be seniors would be able to return for an extra year, at the discretion of the universities. They also announced that all current players would be able to retain a year of eligibility as if this Spring never happened.

Mazey said every player retaining a year of eligibility creates a problem for college baseball coaches down the road dealing with their roster limit.

“I think the decision by the committee to allow seniors to come back and give everybody a year back was good for the seniors,” Mazey said. “It presents a lot of challenges. They’re overlooking roster limits this year and scholarships this year and everything this year, but for a lot of people this year’s not the issue, it’s moving forward.”

West Virginia had 14 true freshmen and 3 redshirt-freshmen on the roster this season and has 13 recruits committed in the 2020 class. Mazey said that could create a real problem for the team in a year or two.

“To give the current freshmen their year back and for them to be freshmen again, this coming year we’re going to have a freshman class over 25 people,” Mazey said. “That’s fine when you don’t have a roster limit, they say the roster limit (exception) is only good for one year and next year we’re back to a 35-man roster limit.”

With uncertainty even surrounding this year’s MLB draft, with the possibility it could be abbreviated to five or 10 rounds, Mazey said West Virginia could end up having as many as five or six players stay at WVU in a couple of years that he would normally have expected to leave via the draft.

Mazey said in a few years the numbers just will not work out, not just for WVU but for a lot of teams.

“We’ll have 25-30 sophomores on the team (in 2022) on a 35-man roster limit, that can’t work,” Mazey said. “I know what they were trying to do by letting the seniors come back, but they really need to address baseball moving forward.”

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Cody is currently a second-year graduate student at West Virginia University studying journalism. His graduate research focuses on the effects newspaper closures have on local communities. He graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2018 with a degree in digital media production. He was born and raised in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

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