Illinois commits reign supreme
July 29, 2019 | Annika Wall
Playing at a higher level is something nearly all athletes strive for. At the the WWBA 16u Prospect Meadows National Championship, nine total players in attendance have already committed to play baseball at the next level.
“I was looking for a place I felt comfortable going to, a place where I liked the coaches and I could enjoy playing baseball,” Moerman said. “Illinois is a very good fit for me because I know a lot of people there at the moment, and people like Jared (Comia), who I’ve known my entire life, are going there.”
At the tournament, the Sparks and Canes are two of three undefeated teams. The three athletes have combined for a .360 batting average. Janik leads the three with a .455 clip, including four extra-base hits and five runs.
“He helps out some of the other guys see what a Division I player is like,” Mick Matsie, Janik’s head coach, said. “He’s in our facility five, six times a week working. I think it rubs off on some of the other guys. Parents can also pick his mom and dad’s brains on how the process goes.”
There are a lot of similarities between the three commits. They all liked how close the university is to their homes, so their families can come watch them play. They were all talking to other schools in the Big Ten. They can all compete at a high level.
“When schools come and watch our guys or another team, they come over and ask who’s that kid,” Matsie said. “I’m like ‘He’s already committed to Illinois, sorry.’ I think they see the quality; he’s beyond his years in baseball smarts. When he’s done playing, if he wants to coach, he’ll be a pretty good one. We’re very fortunate to have him as a part of our organization.”
“Jared and Ryan, they’ve been some of our two best hitters on the team,” Dean Anna, Cangelosi Sparks head coach, said. “Really, really killing the ball and, again, they’re 16 years old. They’re learning still, and it’s impressive to see how good they are and how much better they can be. It’s very exciting for me to coach these guys.”
While Moerman and Janik went into Illinois without a connection, Comia’s had a unique in. His cousin Branden just finished up his freshman season, where he earned starts at both second base and shortstop.
“He’s basically my coach,” Jared said.
Brandon was the one who inspired Jared’s love for Illinois, and, coincidentally, one of the reasons he chose to commit when he did. Jared was in contact with the university’s coaching staff during freshman and sophomore year before he knew he wanted to commit.
“I actually was going to not commit until this summer, but then I went to a baseball game to watch my cousin and all of a sudden, I knew it felt like home,” Jared said. “I committed the next day.”
Jared also said that knowing Moerman was there had an impact on his decision to go to Illinois. However, even though they have committed, they aren’t done improving.
“I’m excited to see pitchers at the next level and how my game develops to get to the next level,” Jared said. “I’ve been speed training, weight lifting, hitting non-stop. As soon as I committed, the work didn’t stop. It doubled.”