It seems like most people have participated in little league baseball as a young child, or at least enjoyed watching a game.
Fans love the luxury of relaxing on a hot, summer day with a hot dog and cold beverage residing in both hands, or the rush of possibly getting that foul ball to come their way.
The sport itself has gone through many changes since its inception, but one thing is unfortunately changing the culture of baseball: blemishes on participation at a young age.
According to a study from Engaged Sports in 2014, the number of players between the ages of 6 and 17 have decreased 4.30 percent from 2009 to 2014. Another study from The Washington Post concluded that 35 percent of children from the age of 6 through 12 play baseball with that number falling to around 16 percent from ages 13 to 17.
Rowan junior outfielder Monny Strickland was not one of those that fell into the trap.
“My dad wanted me to try all three big sports – basketball, football and baseball,” Strickland said. “I really got inspired to play baseball because it was just so exciting to watch. Even at a young age I was always excited to watch it. Eventually, I kept sticking with it, and here we are.”
The outfielder racked up a .352 batting average in his senior year at Egg Harbor Township as a captain with 32 hits on 91 at-bats. Strickland was awarded a Press of Atlantic City All-Star first team selection to go with his two All-Conference selections and Egg Harbor Township Baseball Player of the Year for 2014.
Strickland was a part of former head coach Juan Ranero’s last recruiting class before Mike Dickson took the helm in 2014 and began recruiting the following year. Only he and Jordan Friedman remain from Ranero’s class.
Now with Dickson running the show, Strickland praises the coach’s passion for winning and competing.
“So, the big thing for coach Dickson is competing and refusing to lose, as well as being seen together and being a family,” Strickland said. “I’d say those are the biggest things with him.”
In his freshman year, Strickland received New Jersey Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week honors three times, as well as being named an Eastern Athletic Conference Metro Rookie of the Week once. He improved his sophomore year, going from a .224 average to one of .291. Strickland boasts a .317 batting average this year, setting him in fourth on a Rowan roster that shows a .295 team average in the NJAC.
Influence played a key role in Strickland’s development in the sport and his desire to not only be strong at the plate, but to also be an avid flasher of the leather.
Strickland was denied multiple numbers, which influenced the one he now wears on his back. The number that he represents now – number 1 – was not his first, nor second, choice.
“I got stuck with it my freshman year,” said Strickland before smiling. “I wanted to be number 24, but some stuff had happened and the number got taken. So, I chose the number 1 because it’s the first on the roster, so I’m always the first person everybody sees. I wanted 2 for Derek Jeter, but a senior had it and I was 24 in high school and I’m a Yankees fan and liked Robinson Cano.”
Strickland always finds ways to be around the game, whether he is playing or on the outside looking in.
“I definitely like watching big moments like second and third, two outs and your team is down and you need a big hit,” Strickland said. “I like to be inspired by those moments because when I play, I like to be in those moments.”
Strickland and the rest of the Rowan baseball team will host The College of New Jersey on April 20 at 3:30 p.m.
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