One could say that the Western Nevada College baseball team has experienced the pitfalls of becoming a successful program for the first time.
James Nygren, who was going to be counted on heavily on the 2008 Wildcats pitching staff, has decided to transfer from WNC and enroll at Oregon State after the first of the. Nygren will join the two-time defending national champion Beavers' pitching staff this spring.
Nygren signed with the Beavers on the first day of the fall signing period earlier this month. But Wildcat coach D.J. Whittemore said Nygren signed with Oregon State with the understanding that he would at least play the 2008 season with WNC.
The decision by Nygren to play immediately with Oregon State is an interesting one. If Nygren had stayed at WNC, he could have been eligible for this summer's major league draft. There would have been a good chance that Nygren could have been taken high enough to make it worth his while to sign a pro contract.
But now that he's going to Oregon State, Nygren will have to be with the Beavers for three years before he's eligible for the draft.
"We just didn't feel like it was in James' best interest," said Whittemore about going to Oregon State immediately.
"I feel like he made a commitment to our program," Whittemore said. "We were under the assumption that he was going to be playing for us in the spring."
Whittemore, though, said he holds Oregon State just as responsible as Nygren. "I'm equally disappointed in both parties," Whittemore said. "We were given a commitment that they weren't going to recruit him to play this spring."
But that evidently changed when Nygren hit 95 miles an hour with his fastball while pitching this fall for WNC.
Oregon State hardly recruited Nygren, who's from Oregon, when he was in high school. "He played in their backyard for four years in high school," Whittemore said. "He wasn't good enough to walk on, he wasn't good enough to get a scholarship. It's disappointing."
Whittemore said evidently a player can transfer from a junior college to a four-year school during the middle of the school year without losing any eligibility. But he said he's been told that it's an "unwritten rule" for a four-year school not to recruit JC athletes to come to their program in the same school year.
And while he hasn't coached at the JC level that long, Whittemore said he's never heard of a JC baseball player transferring to play with a four-year school in the same school year. "To my knowledge it's the first time," Whittemore said.
Whittemore also admitted this kind of thing is becoming the nature of the beast in big-time college athletics. "It's just the win at all costs attitude of major college sports," he said.
Evidently, Oregon State believes that Nygren will be good enough to pitch on weekends this spring even though the program has a total of about 20 pitchers, Whittemore said. "It baffles me," said Whittemore on why Oregon State would need one more pitcher that soon with so many on staff.
But Whittemore admitted that this episode can't affect his program's relationship with Oregon State as its highly likely the program will be recruiting WNC players in the future.
"I'm not going to let this affect the way we feel about them," Whittemore said. "I'm in the business of building relationships, not burning bridgets. We'll let bygones be bygones. But it leaves a bad taste in my mouth."
And Whittemore admitted Nygren's departure will affect his program. Nygren was being groomed in the fall to be the team's closer. Now WNC will have to adjust how it will use its bullpen.
Western Nevada also still has a talented pitching staff that includes Kyle Farrell and Kyle Starratt, both of whom had strong falls and likely will be at the front end of WNC's starting rotation.
Another key pitcher should be Josh Moody, who had arm trouble at the end of last summer and didn't see any action in the fall. But Whittemore said Moody worked hard during the fall and has bulked up by 15 pounds.
"He's someone we have high hopes for and high expectations for," Whittemore said. "I have all the confidence in the world in our pitching staff. We're going to be fine."