Faith Baptist Christian Academy had six baseball players receive offers and commit to playing baseball at the next level during signing day Friday.
All the players are part of the national prep baseball team that will start its upcoming season in February and play through April representing the Ludowici private school.
Most of the players moved when coach Gene Young Jr. moved his baseball program from Faith Baptist in Brandon, Florida, to Long County.
“I’ve been coaching the program that we operate for nine years,” Young explained. “We just moved from Florida up here this summer. We relocated all the guys we had in Florida who wanted to come back, and they moved up with us.”
Also moving to Long was his assistant coach, Gary Cates.
Young played baseball for the University of Tampa.
“We lost the championship game in my senior year,” he said. “But I was drafted in the ninth round by the Rockies in 2003.”
Young played a year at the pro level, then decided to focus on working with youth. Cates and Young have known each other since they were 5 years old. They played baseball together through high school. Cates was drafted out of high school by the Orioles and played 10 years in the minor leagues.
Together, the men have created a baseball program that has helped 75 athletes earn scholarships in the last five years and had three players be drafted by major league teams.
National prep baseball teams give athletes from all over the country the opportunity to get an education and play sports. Young said that for most, the only way they would get the chance to go to college is with a scholarship.
Inside Faith Baptist Church on Friday, six more players signed to play at the junior college level.
“This is the type of day that all these kids wait for,” Young said. “The day they can sign a scholarship and continue to pursue their athletic career as well as an education. All these young men are very talented, but I am more pleased to say that all are good young men.”
Jarlin Lara and Irvin Cespedes signed to play for Bryan College, a Christian junior college in Dayton, Tennessee.
Young said Lara is originally from New Jersey, but Young and his staff discovered Lara’s talents when scouting players in the Dominican Republic. This is pitcher Lara’s first year under Young’s guidance. Cespedes, from New York, also is in his first year with Young. He is a versatile athlete who plays shortstop and infield.
Shameko Smith, Chavez Fernander, Chavez Young and Julio Blanco all signed letters to play at Polk State College in Florida.
Fernander and Young are both from the Bahamas. Coach Young said Fernander, a pitcher, is in his second year and can throw the ball 88-
91 mph. The coach added that Fernander is being scouted by the pros. Chavez Young is in his third year, plays center field and is being heavily scouted by the pros.
“Monday, he will go and work out with the Dodgers,” coach Young said, noting that Chavez Young has already worked out with the Padres and Rangers and is scheduled to work out with the Blue Jays, Pirates and Braves as well.
Smith, also in his third year, is another right-handed pitcher who can toss between 88 and 91 mph.
Blanco is from Venezuela and is in his second year under the guidance of coach Young. He is a pitcher.
“He is our hardest thrower with his speed at 90-93 mph,” Young said.
Spring will mark the beginning of the season. But the players kept busy during the fall, playing travel ball at junior colleges.
“We played Seminole State College in Orlando, and we beat them 7-3, the first time we’ve beaten one of the colleges we played,” Young said.
The coach said the school will have a full schedule coming up from February through April and be able to field two teams for Faith Baptist Christian Academy.