Jereme Scott can't wait to attend Saint Joseph's University this fall, and Brian Moran is eager to begin college at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, but both say they aren't ready to play Division I baseball -- at least not yet.
Both players were dominant during high school competition this spring, as Scott, a center fielder at Long Reach, and Moran, an infielder and outfielder at Chapelgate Christian, used blazing speed to command the bases.
But now the pair, along with some other top Howard County high school players and graduates, is in a different situation when stepping onto the baseball diamond. For Scott and Moran, summer select baseball with the Columbia Reds allows them to compete with others who share their talent and ambition. The Reds, along with Laurel Post 60, the Frozen Ropes, the Howard County Raiders and the Maryland Orioles, bring together the area's top players -- including many from Howard -- for rigorous schedules against select teams across the mid-Atlantic region.
Gone are the days when those players watch 70 mph fastballs tossed down the middle of the plate. Or curveballs that hang to their delight. Or fielders who can't routinely make diving plays on well-hit balls.
"Players who were good in high school and who want to go on and play in college have to learn they can't get by on their talent alone like they could in high school -- I know I am," Scott said. "That's why this is important."
"The level of talent of the teams we play is awesome, and if I had to try to go from playing at Chapelgate [Christian] to playing at UMBC, it would be hard, and I don't think I'd make it," Moran said. "Playing on the Reds gives me the chance to play against teams who have players who are going to play in college or are already playing college baseball."
The Reds, who entered the week 20-5, have 21 players, including 13 county residents, selected by Coach Paul Donovan. Five players just completed their freshman year of college, including University of Pennsylvania infielder Andrew Bechta (Centennial), Northwest Shoals (Ala.) Junior College's Vyt Rivers (Atholton) and Catonsville Community College pitcher Chorye Spoon (Northeast), who was recently selected by the San Diego Padres in the 36th round of this year's Major League Baseball amateur draft.
"The competition we'll play this summer is right up there with what you'll see in college," Bechta said. "The pitching we'll go up against this summer will be just as good as the third or fourth starter on most college teams."
Ten players -- including Centennial pitcher Jon Dupski, Centennial outfielder Steve Seh, Mount Hebron pitcher Jonathan Raglin and Long Reach infielder Robbie O'Brien -- just graduated from high school and will play in college next season.
A major transition is adjusting to the schedule. The Reds -- like the majority of select teams -- will play about 55 games between the end of May and late July and could take the field 60 times if they make the National Amateur Baseball Federation's World Series in Jackson, Miss., later this month.
"We'll play more games in two months than the number of games we played at Mount Hebron in the past two years combined, and playing summer league is more like a college schedule and what the pros do," Raglin said. "But it's fun, because most of the guys on this team, like Jon Dupski, I've been playing with or against since I was 7 years old, and everyone on this team is committed to coming together and playing good baseball."
The Reds' other players are high school juniors and seniors -- including Reservoir infielder Peter Smith and Glenelg pitcher Jeff Dulaney -- who hope playing against top competition will make them better than they would be if they competed against players their own age.
"I got a call from several teams, but I thought the Reds would give me the best exposure with college scouts," Dulaney said. "It's not like playing for Glenelg because the competition does not have one weak batter in the lineup. They are all stars and the best players on their high school or college teams."
Donovan said one of the team's goals is to make its second appearance in the World Series in three seasons, and he hopes his players' success extends beyond wearing the Reds' uniform. Donovan estimates 90 percent of his players go on to play in college, and three are now in the minor leagues, including Matt Duechler, the former Centennial catcher who is playing for the Great Falls White Sox, the rookie league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
"Everyone on this team is aware of the tradition in history of all the great players who have played for the Reds, like Duechler," said Seh, who will try to walk on at Maryland. "A lot of the players who were on the Reds go on to bigger things, and everyone is aware of that, and that's what we all want."