Out-of-state baseball recruits rise
In recent years, Loyola's baseball team has seen a sharp increase in the number of student athletes coming from outside of Louisiana.
In this season's recruitment class, Wolf Pack baseball brought in five first-year players from out of state, including one of the first international students in the history of the baseball program.
The first-year players brought in this year were part of the first group of players second-year head coach Doug Faust was able to recruit.
"We really didn't get to do a lot of recruiting last season," Faust, who took over the team in late September of 2012, said.
Faust was able to increase the number of out-of-state players from the roster he inherited last year, but he said he doesn't put too much emphasis on getting players from outside of Louisiana.
"We just try to find the best players that are the best fit for Loyola," he said. "If we find a guy, no matter where he lives, we really don't take that into consideration."
In 2010, Loyola baseball had three players from out of state. Loyola finished second to last in-conference that season. On opening day of the 2014 season, the school had 11 of its 34 players come from out of state. These numbers put Loyola close to the average in comparison with the other teams in their conference.
Faust did acknowledge however that there is a certain level of pressure that comes from being located in an area with other competitive college baseball programs.
"There's so many good baseball programs in Louisiana, not just New Orleans," he said. "There are so many Division I teams, there's a lot of options. You've got to find the guy that wants to play baseball but really values the education he can receive at Loyola."
Faust continued by pointing out that not every high school player in Louisiana is able to play for a high profile Division I school.
"It makes it more difficult, obviously it does. Kids want to play Division I sometimes," he said, "Every kid in the state grows up wanting play for LSU, we've got to find the kid who grew up wanting to attend Loyola University."
While leaving the area to find talent is difficult because of budget constraints, Faust said that there are other ways to look at high school players from a range of locations without having to travel too far.
"I work showcases throughout the south, where I can see hundreds of players in a weekend," he said.
Faust explained that showcases allow high school students to go through workouts and drills so scouts and coaches from around the area can evaluate them.
"All these high school juniors and seniors want to showcase their skills in front of college coaches. It gives you a chance to, without having to watch hundreds of games. It's a long day but you can see a lot of talented kids," Faust said.
Faust has brought in not only out-of-state freshmen for the 2014 season, but also a few transfer students from junior colleges.
Derek Whitfield, a management sophomore from Biloxi, MS, said that he expects to be spending a lot of time at first base this season, and while he had other schools to choose from, he felt that Loyola was the right choice after a conversation with Faust.
"He told me the position was open," Whitfield said, "The first basemen last year was a senior so he told me I compete for the starting job right away."
General studies business freshman and outfielder Alex Lorenzo said he had the option of going to a junior college for baseball but decided to attend Loyola because of its academics.
"The junior college was going to pay for books and all that stuff," he said. "But I looked up the academic side of it and it wasn't as good as Loyola. Academics are a huge part of what I want to do here."
Lorenzo, from Miami, Fla., said that in addition to adjusting to playing baseball at the college level he also had to adjust to the culture of New Orleans.
"Growing up in Miami, you get accustomed to speaking Spanish, and coming here was hard to adjust. The adaptation took about one week and then I was ready to go," Lorenzo said.
Prior to his adjustment to a new city and new level of competition, Lorenzo said that a former Loyola player who Lorenzo had played with in high school helped him out.
"When I was a junior in high school one of the seniors [from Loyola's baseball team], Mike Inglesia, was on the team. He got recruited by Loyola and he helped me and Coach Faust get in contact with each other and that's how he started recruiting me," Lorenzo said.
Faust said that it is common practice to rely on connections when trying to find information on players who may be potential recruiting targets. Faust and other members of the coaching staff will sometimes call the high school coaches of a player to get additional information that may not show up in high light tape or on the state sheet.
This sort of communication also helped the baseball program get one of the few international students in program history when they brought on general studies business freshman Luis Angiuzola.
Faust said that he found out about Angiuzola when he emailed Faust asking if he could earn a spot on the team.
"His parents called, he was interested in the school, he was a good student and was interested in coming to Loyola," he said. "He's a really good player who just fell into our lap, basically"
Faust realizes that there was an element of luck involved in his acquisition of a player from Panama but he said tries to create an environment on his teams that catches the attention of anyone who may consider playing baseball for Loyola.
"We try to create a competitive atmosphere, a fun experience to play baseball in," he said. "When guys come watch us practice that's one thing they really see."
Hasani Grayson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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