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Monday, October 19, 2020

Baseball

For former JUCO players, UH did ‘really good job’ of making Houston home


Senior Blake Way made his way to Houston in 2019 after two years playing JUCO, and last year’s Cougars welcomed him to the team with open arms. | Jhair Romero/The Cougar

Senior catcher Blake Way made his way to Houston in 2019 after two years playing JUCO, and last year’s Cougars welcomed him to the team with open arms. | Jhair Romero/The Cougar

Junior college has become the feeding ground for many Division I baseball teams across the country, with many programs dipping into the talent pool to fill out their rosters.

It’s no different for Houston.

Of the 35 players on the Cougars’ roster this season, 15 of them began their collegiate baseball careers at a junior college.

Former San Jacinto College player and junior first baseman Ryan Hernandez, who is batting a team-high .333 with four home runs on the season, is just one of the many for UH who got their start in JUCO. 

Hernandez, who helped lead the Gators to a Region XIV Championship in 2019 with a .295/.390/.409 slash line, said he is thankful for his time at San Jacinto and the Division I doors it opened that allowed him to transfer to Houston.

“San Jacinto is known for being one of the biggest transition schools, and being able to play at San Jac in front of such good scouts and coaches directly opened up the opportunity for other schools to come watch,” Hernandez said.

Senior catcher Blake Way, who joined Houston in 2019 after spending two seasons at Delgado Community College, furthered echoed how JUCO opened the door for him to play baseball at the next level.

“Delgado offered a huge opportunity for me to play (Division I) baseball,” Way said. “Coach Joe Sherman does a great job getting guys seen and help them get further on to play for other universities.”

Although it might seem like a big jump going from JUCO to a Division I program, both Hernandez and Way said their junior colleges prepared them well, which made the transition to Houston much easier. 

Other than adjusting to the new class, Hernandez said, most aspects of school and athletics found in JUCO have carried over to UH.

“When you go from one of the top schools in JUCO to another top (Division I) athletic school like Houston, it’s pretty similar,” he said. “It requires the same intensity and the same rigorous attitude.”

Because Houston gets so many JUCO transfers each year, the baseball program has to have a culture centered around welcoming in everyone and making people feel at home.

Hernandez emphasized how Houston’s program does a good job of welcoming in all-new JUCO players, embracing them and quickly making them feel like part of the team.

“When I got here it was really nice to be brought in with open arms,” Hernandez said. “I’m really excited to be here, and I came in with about 10 other JUCO guys who were also all really excited to be here. People treat you really well when you show excitement.”

For Way, Houston became home, and he hopes the newer players that took the same path as he did can feel the same.

“I think the team last year did a really good job of embracing me and making me part of the team and did the same thing this year with the new guys,” Way said. 

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