Oregon State’s 20th-year coach is far more interested in deciding who will be the final players to make the team’s roster when the season starts on Valentine’s Day against Gonzaga in Tempe, Ariz.
“I’ve never figured out why the NCAA decided that 35 guys is the right number but 37 is not,” Casey said during the Beavers’ annual Media Day. “That’s a disappointing thing to me, the opportunities that are taken away from some young men who could be the Max Gordons of the world, you know, who walked on and wound up starting in a College World Series and may never get the chance to play because of roster limitations.”
For some schools the difference between being the 35th player is effectively the same as being the 36th: there’s no playing time and precious little other reward beyond missing classes for several days while on road trips.
However, Oregon State isn’t like other schools. The Beavers were fourth at the College World Series in 2013 and enter this season ranked No. 2 in the country.
“This is a win or bust year,” junior pitcher Jace Fry said.
Oregon State, the Pac-12 Conference champion in 2013, isn’t just looking to make the postseason again. It’s looking – from established stars Fry, Ben Wetzler, Michael Conforto, Andrew Moore, and Dylan Davis to freshman Hunter Jarmon (who is on the bubble to make the 35-man roster) – to win the 2014 title in Omaha, Neb., at the end of June.
That puts Jarmon – who spent the fall as a redshirt wide receiver on the OSU football team – among a talented lot of athletes vying the final roster spots.
Jarmon could be one of the fastest players for the Beavers. Casey said it might be a deadheat race between the freshman and sophomore center fielder Jeff Hendrix, if the two were to race. The lack of playing baseball in the fall might be the deciding factor for Jarmon on a roster filled with players aiming to be the best team in the country.
“Hunter is a really gifted athlete,” Casey said. “He didn’t have the opportunity to play in the fall, so he’s rusty with his baseball skills. With the roster limitations, the 35-man roster, it’s kind of disappointing because he’s a guy that we certainly feel could be a contributor if you have unlimited roster spots. He’s right there to take one of those last two roster spots. And it’s not just him, there’s others as well.”
Of course, the challenge of determining who those 35 are is Casey and his coaching staff’s task.