By Brianna Lopez
Barry’s athletic program is growing with the addition of a Junior Varsity (JV) baseball team this semester.
The JV program briefly began last season but is getting its official debut this semester with approximately 70 players split between the JV and varsity team. Players and coaches believe this expansion will lead Barry’s baseball program to future success.
The team, made up of mostly recruits, will begin their season a few weeks after Feb. 1, according to Director of Athletic Communications Dennis Jezek. For now, the team splits field time with the varsity squad, putting in a maximum of 20 hours per week of practice.
The team is looking to play about 20 to 25 games during the season. This is approximately half of the varsity team’s playing time, which is about 50 games per season.
Barry’s JV team will play other JV programs at schools in the Sunshine State Conference, including Florida Southern University and the University of Tampa. They will also compete against National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes (NAIA) schools and junior colleges.
Currently, the team consists of mostly freshmen and sophomores. These players can use JV as a starting point to develop their skills because Jezek notes that the purpose of the JV team is to develop varsity-eligible players from within Barry’s program.
“A kid coming from JV is a better player for us than someone coming from outside,” said Jezek. “The culture of Barry baseball is already present. They are a part of that.”
JV Head Coach DJ Price agrees, adding that JV is working as a developmental team with the expectation that these players will move up to play varsity.
“What we’re doing is giving them the opportunity to still compete and get reps at the JV level, even if they can’t [start] on varsity,” said Price.
This opportunity has been well received by Barry baseball players Christofer Meilan and Matthew Faby.
Meilan, a sophomore business administration and sports management major, notes that he, Faby, and his other roommate benefitted from playing on JV last season when Jezek launched the program unofficially.
“The JV team [last season] was like seven guys, and they got more reps than if they were on varsity as a red shirt,” said Meilan. “JV is great because you work on every skill you need to develop for the next year and compete on varsity.”
Faby, a sophomore finance major, believes that JV can relieve the pressure of freshmen coming into a college baseball program.
“It’s good, especially because a lot of freshmen are thrown into the fire,” said Faby.
In high school, Faby primarily played the field. Here at Barry, however, he was developed as a pitcher. Starting out as a JV player allowed him to develop in that position before moving onto varsity.
According to Price, JV will allow players to acclimate themselves to the climate of college baseball and what it takes to be a student-athlete.
“It’s tough being a student-athlete at the college level,” said Price. “Everything’s faster and it’s difficult, but this gives them the opportunity to ease in.”
As inspiration for the JV program, the coaching staff looked toward some of the most successful teams in their conference— the University of Tampa and Florida Southern. These schools have had JV programs for decades, according to Jezek, and they’ve had ample success.
“We want to have that kind of success, as well,” said Jezek.
Beyond success, the JV coaching staff hopes to bring recognition to baseball—both at Barry and on a broader level. By developing their JV program, the baseball program at Barry can “get more heads to turn toward us and what we do,” said Price.
Jezek adds that in Miami baseball is the sport. He notes that there is a lot of talent not only in Miami, but in surrounding countries like Cuba. With the popularity of baseball, the more opportunities Barry has in the sport, the better off they will be. JV is a starting point to this.
“Being from up North, this is the mecca. This is baseball. Florida is baseball,” said Price. “To have this opportunity is a great opportunity for people to get to know what the program is about.”