There isn’t much in Marianna, Florida – the town of 6,230 is mostly composed of fast food restaurants and Chipola College, a two-year institution.
Andrew Grogan is just fine with that. The North Forsyth alum gets to practice baseball, play baseball and not have many distractions in between. So far, that arrangement had paid off – this spring, Grogan was one of the top relief arms for the Indians, who went 51-9 and won the NJCAA Division I baseball championship.
Grogan had a scholarship offer to play at Georgia State out of high school, but he wasn’t sold on living in Atlanta. He went to Southern Union State Community College in Wadley, Alabama the fall of his freshman year, then transferred to Chipola for the spring.
The school is home to one of the strongest junior college baseball programs in the country. The Indians count among their alumni Major Leaguers like Jose Bautista, Russell Martin and Tyler Flowers, and they had 11 players picked in the MLB Draft this year, which was tied for the highest total of any college.
“The team’s so talented,” Grogan said. “It really pushes everyone to compete, practice every day, and that’s what makes it so great down there.”
Grogan had a slow start to the season, with sickness and recovery from wisdom teeth surgery cutting into his offseason preparation and sapping some of his velocity, but he regained zip as the season went on and found a go-to pitch in his slider. Over 37 2/3 total innings, Grogan had 38 strikeouts, 10 walks and a 3.82 ERA.
Meanwhile, the Indians were on their way to compiling a 3.89 team ERA and a sky-high .360 team batting average. They advanced to the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado, which held no shortage of wonders from Grogan – the drive through mountains and canyons from the airport in Denver, the banquet, the thousands of fans that packed the ballpark each night.
“I can’t say enough about it,” Grogan said. “It was awesome.”
Grogan had a difficult first outing in Grand Junction, giving up three hits and three runs in 1 1/3 innings against McLennan Community College, but he threw five innings the next day, allowing three runs on three hits with five strikeouts to get the win.
The only significant drawback to the event was the anxiety-inducing task of pitching at high elevation in a park with fence just 302 feet down the left-field line.
“Any time you hang a slider or anything, you cringe and hope it goes well,” Grogan said.
As for Grogan’s future in baseball, he hasn’t considered much more than his next season with Chipola. He would be happy to sign with a Division I program, as many Indians products do, and with a solid sophomore campaign, he could have a strong chance to get drafted.
In the meantime, Grogan won’t be getting the typical “college experience,” the balance of schoolwork and good times that many athletes look for in a four-year school. For junior college athletes like him, who are focused on improving their game for whatever the next level may be, that’s the point.
“You don't want to go somewhere and party or anything,” Grogan said. “You want to go and walk the line, get your work done.”