Take an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look into how players make club baseball’s roster

Bobby Thompson delivers a pitch during the ISU baseball clubs spring break trip to Florida.

Jordan Hamann

If you build it, [they] will come. And that they did.

Club baseball had around 155 athletes tryout for the 2017 fall league team. Out of that, only 10 will be added to the 16-man roster bringing that to a total of 26 men on the roster for the spring season.

The process for Iowa State club baseball is no MLB Draft. This is much more bizarre.

The walk up to Cap Timm Field in the cold October air omitted a feeling that this was a different process than what meets-the-eye.

This is where the yearly club baseball fall league tryout process occurs. This started when the club team was created following the disbandment of the Division I program.

Think about the process of judicial courts.

You have a judge, the jury, lawyers and a defendant. The lawyers cut the jury pool down to 12 for the court, the judge then sits through a testimony from the lawyers, the jury is then given the chance to debate and ultimately find whether the person is innocent or guilty.

Now take that process and compare it to the process tryout process of the club baseball team.

“All of us current club players, we’ll all sit down in a room for two to three hours and we’ll just debate on these players and figure out which eight to 11 guys will be the best fit for our team [following the fall league tryouts],” said Iowa State club baseball president, senior Bobby Thompson. 

Can you see the similarities?

“It’s actually really unique. Compared to other schools around the area —actually around the country, they do just a simple couple-day tryout and take those guys who they see stand out in those tryouts and they bring them onto the team,” said Iowa State club baseball vice president, senior Cole Henry.

In this process, the club builds about 10 teams with around 15 guys per team. After that, they put them through a process known as fall tryouts. In those tryouts, teams will play around eight games against each other.

Through these games, the club will evaluate competition and see what players stand out over a longer process. If you look at other universities, you won’t see another selection process that is like the one seen here at Iowa State. Through this longer process, there is more talent coming out.

Current club players also play a vital role of being coaches for the tryout teams. Prior to games, current club players go over a list of three to five names of potential candidates to look at while they play. 

“That gives us more of a better read — a less biased read on our players so we can actually look at these guys when they’re playing,” said Thomas Anderson, sophomore outfielder.

Many of the current players remember how intimidating of a process it was for them when they first tried out.

Senior outfielder Ethan Kain reflected upon his first tryout after he learned of the club.

“When I first got here I learned that there was a hundred some kids at tryouts,” Kain said. “I was pretty nervous and didn’t know if I was going to make the team.

“I ended up trying out, was invited to selective-tryouts and eventually was asked onto the team. So I guess I proved myself that out of 100 some guys that I’m good enough to be here.”

Sophomore outfielder Nick Barclay also reflected upon how nerve-racking the process was for him.

“It was pretty intimidating, but I just kind of had to remember that I’m just here to play baseball and have fun,” Barclay said. “Once I got know everybody I wasn’t as nervous to go to [tryout] games.”

Barclay said one thing he kept in mind was that everybody is in college, and everyone is there for the same reason. That reason is to go out there, play baseball and have fun. 

Anderson said having the exposure early on was really helpful in getting him a spot on the roster.

“I didn’t really know if I separated myself that much,” Anderson said. “I was one of the more serious guys looking to play. If a player takes themselves and holds themselves more seriously you can see what a difference it makes.”

Being fair and inclusive, while also setting your team up for success, is what the club players always have to keep in mind. Some guys will come into this just wanting to play another year of baseball — a last hurrah so to speak.

Then there will be the more serious players who will immediately stand out as guys who the club will bring on to the roster in the spring.

Barclay remains optimistic for the future of the club.

“This is the future of the program that is playing in front of us right now so really it’s their job to play, but it’s our job to pick the guys that are a good fit for the club,” Barclay said. “We’ll look for guys that love the game and play hard.”

The judge, the jury and the executioner. This is how Iowa State club baseball gets it done.