A Near Strike Out

By: Colin Lacy

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

In a series opening game in May at Founders Park in Columbia, Georgia Baseball opened a three-game series against the then Number 13 South Carolina Gamecocks.

The Dawgs chased the Gamecock’s starter Roman Kimball after scoring four in the top of the 1st inning, then the second inning saw Charlie Condon launch a Ty Good first pitch past the left field wall to go back-to-back with teammate Corey Collins. That blast was his 34th of the season to maintain the national homerun lead.

Condon not only led the nation in homers, but also led the country with an average over .450 and had driven in 72 runs at that point for the Diamond Dawgs. He’s having a historic year for Georgia, but it’s almost a career that never came to fruition.

Near the end of his career at The Walker School in Marietta (North Metro Atlanta area), Condon had no Division I offers to play baseball.

The two offers on the table were from D III Rhodes College in Memphis and University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn to play both baseball and also play quarterback for the football programs.

Condon did have a potential preferred walk-on opportunity for the Tennessee Volunteers, but a late pull from Vols Head Coach Tony Vitello took that opportunity off the table.

Scott Stricklin, former Georgia Head Coach from 2014 thru 2023, got a phone call from a friend telling him about Charlie, and was told that Condon may be a potential target.

Stricklin and staff got some video of Condon’s skills and thought he would be able to be a factor for the Dawgs down the road.

So how did everyone miss on someone that potentially could be the number one overall pick in the upcoming MLB Draft?

Well, it may be a full storm of factors. First off, Condon was a late bloomer. While the last few years in high school were impressive, he wasn’t on the top travel ball team, he wasn’t the measurable masterpiece.

All of that along with COVID-19 was affecting the sports world still while his recruiting process. High school schedules were affected, College coaches weren’t out on the road and able as many players as they normally would, so late bloomers, and players that were under the radar didn’t get a look.

If there needed to be another factor, the MLB Draft was shortened from 40 rounds to 20, so there weren’t many scholarships to go around.

Condon turned into the perfect fit for the Bulldogs before even taking an at-bat. Condon was exceptional student and was able to be accepted to the University of Georgia and didn’t need a scholarship to come to school.

As a pure walk-on, Condon didn’t see action as a freshman. Scott Stricklin told Condon that the plan was for him to redshirt and really hit the weight room in 2022 to grow into the player that Stricklin thought Condon could be.

While that is the plan, Stricklin saw that Condon was special and had told other college coaches that possibly the best hitter on his roster was a redshirt.

Condon took the redshirt in stride and gained 15-20 pounds of muscle, and seeing college pitching made it click at the plate.

If Condon wasn’t special enough, or as one scout called him “a unicorn,” he had to deal with another bit of adversity after 2023 when Stricklin (the coach that took a chance on him) was let go from UGA.

In the new age of college sports of NIL and transfer portal, Condon proved he’s a “unicorn” off the field too with an incredibly infrequent take on the portal opportunity.

“It was never a real possibility that I wanted to get in the portal and go anywhere else,” Condon told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach.

“Whether it was this coaching staff or not, the university was the only place that gave me a chance out of high school. It was the university that had given me all the time and resources and put so much into my development. I couldn’t turn my back on that.”

No matter if you’re a fan of the Dawgs, or just of college baseball, you can’t help but root for Charlie Condon, and marvel at the historic season.

As great as his on-the-field presence is, the off-the field factor helps Condon’s draft stock just as much.