Georgia Southern's baseball program isn't all that inviting to a possible walk-on freshman.
Although the NCAA requires each school to allow nonscholarship students a chance to compete for a spot on the roster, a walk-on making the Georgia Southern baseball team is extremely rare.
"We haven't kept many over the years," said Georgia Southern baseball coach Rodney Hennon. "We kept one kid two years ago, but he didn't hang around too long."
Then Harlem's Barrett Davis arrived.
Davis, who led Harlem to the second round of the state playoffs last year, was one of 40 Georgia Southern students who tried to walk on to the baseball team this fall. Out of the 40 who survived the tryout Nov. 2, only Davis was called back by Hennon.
In a meeting in the coach's office, Hennon told Davis that he had made the team.
"He told me I'd be red-shirted my first year, but he was giving me my chance," Davis said.
As a senior at Harlem last year, Davis received a few letters from smaller schools. Not a single NCAA Division I school paid much attention to the starting catcher.
"He's was a pretty decent ball player for us," Harlem baseball coach Jimmie Lewis said. "He hit for some power. He was one of the main reasons we got as far as we did."
Davis did see two Bulldog teammates, Rusty James and Mike Morris, sign to play at Georgia Southwestern State University and Andrew College, respectively, last year.
In the meantime, Davis waited, keeping the academic portion of his college career in mind.
"I'd rather focus on my education," he said. "When I got to Georgia Southern I was planning to walk on."
The battle for playing time won't be easy for Davis as an Eagle.
Although he's already on the team, he'll sit out as a red-shirt freshman in the spring, then compete for a chance behind the plate next year.
"Even though he's red-shirted, he's got a chance to travel some as a catcher this year," Hennon said. "He'll help us in the bullpen."
Georgia Southern's top catcher, Flint Wipke, was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 2005 Major League Baseball draft.
Wipke's early exit left the Eagles looking for another catcher.
"We needed another guy back there behind the plate," Hennon said. "Hopefully he'll develop to where he can contribute down the road. He's got some good tools to work with."
The Eagles still have sophomore Jeremiah Parker slated to start at catcher this year and, according to Davis, three freshman catchers who signed with the team.
After his first semester of college, Davis is home over the holiday break. Although he'll still give and receive plenty of Christmas presents, Davis said there's no better gift than getting a spot on the team.
"It's what I've always dreamed of doing," he said. "I got my chance."
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