Are HBCU Baseball Programs Getting the Best From the Transfer Portal?

Just like at any school, HBCU coaches search for college baseball’s next stars. Head coaches check the transfer portal every day. HBCUs are using two reliable sources for recruiting. Coaches continue going the route of showcase events and checking multiple times each day the transfer portal for the kids that fit a need.

With so many players in the portal, coaches are spending countless hours looking for new names, reviewing data and watching videos of those players.

If you talk to the many HBCU baseball coaches across the country like I have, they all have stated that spending time in the transfer portal getting recruits into their programs is worth it.

It works for some of the HBCU baseball programs that tap into the portal. Not all HBCUs use or are able to land a transfer from the portal.

Last year Grambling State recruited the portal heavily and got one of the top HBCU baseball players this past 2022 season when they landed two-way top utility player Shemar Page.

Page, while at Grambling transferred from Louisiana Tech. As a utility player for the Tigers, as a starter, he struck out 142 batters on the hill, hit three home runs, and drove in 28 runs at the plate. While with the Tigers, Page led the bullpen with a 2.60 ERA,and an 8-5 record. He also recorded five complete games and tossed a perfect game against Alcorn State in April – the 34th in NCAA Division I history.

Bluefield State, after winning the inaugural Black College World Series in 2021, made a return trip back in 2022 with a team recruited heavily out of the NCAA Division I portal… Tyson Mickie – Middle Tennessee State, Brayden Merrick – Virginia Tech, Zane Eggleston – Longwood, Jordan Varela Payne North Carolina Central, and Riley Bost – Northern Colorado.

Bluefield’s head coach Drew Bailey stated, “I personally think the portal can both benefit and hurt the program but, anytime you can add a young man who can be an immediate impact player at our level you have to use it as a resource.”

The value of the portal at HBCUs is clear. Players who were on the depth charts at other collegiate programs will often look first for opportunities that allow them to turn to HBCUs and receive more playing time on the field. The portal gives them that opportunity.

The thing that the portal provides for these guys is exposure.

Albany State landed from Georgia State University Lavoisier Fisher, another transfer who received more playing time after leaving GSU. This past season Fisher batted .384 with 11 home runs and 56 runs batted in. Fisher also drew Major League scouting interest.

HBCUs offer a better player more playing time. The same is true of high-profile players simply looking for a more natural fit for them or looking to make a move due to being on the field as an everyday player, like Texas Southern outfielder Johnathon Thomas, a transfer from the University of Houston. He led the NCAA in stolen bases last season with 62 at TSU. Thomas was drafted by the Washington Nationals who selected him in the 2022 Major League Baseball Draft.

With the recruitment of portal players from all levels of college baseball, I see plenty of talent making its way to HBCUs. But it’s one-sided when it comes to who’s available to programs like Edward Waters University who do not use the transfer portal but rely on traditional recruiting.

Edward Waters won its second national title this past season winning the Black College World Series.

From what I was told, the transfer portal this summer was concentrated around pitching needs. A rash of pitchers entered the transfer portal.

The transfer portal is not going to change traditional recruiting when it comes to trying to land a top high schooler who will be a star for three seasons. But it does offer less risk than a high school prospect who hasn’t yet adjusted to the college game.

A head coach knows what may work for his specific program especially in the future where players are able to transfer freely.

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