Division I baseball hopefuls find steppingstone at Delgado

NEW ORLEANS — No one knows the importance of selling a program better than Delgado Community College baseball coach Joe Scheuermann, who lost track of his pitch count years ago.

Suffice it to say, he’s thrown plenty more balls than strikes. Often, he can’t even get in the recruiting game with Division I wannabes.

That’s why a meeting at his home two years ago with three prospects from Jesuit High School still resonates with him on the eve of the NJCAA Region 23 Division 1 Tournament on Saturday and Sunday at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium.

On that spring day in 2011, the battery of Scheuermann and Dolphins freshman outfielder Sean McMullen scored a resounding victory, convincing center fielder Bubby Riley, right fielder Brady Williamson and shortstop Tony Fortier-Benson that Delgado would do them right, on the field and in the classroom.

In hindsight, it proved to be a win-win situation for all involved.

McMullen has gone on to play a starring role for No. 3-ranked LSU, and all three former Blue Jays have played key roles in the Dolphins’ recent ascent to a school-record No. 3 ranking at 43-9 in the latest NJCAA polls.

“McMullen, basically, sold our program to them,’’ Scheuermann recalled. “It’s one thing for a coach to recruit a kid, but when their peers tell them that it’s the right thing to do, it kind of hits home.

“When I first started recruiting McMullen out of Brother Martin, he had no interest in Delgado. In fact, he told me if he didn’t play D-I, he wasn’t going to play baseball anymore. He was a hard sell. But he’s a prime example of kids out there who just don’t realize how the system works. McMullen is living proof that it can be done.’’

Five players from this year’s Delgado squad have signed to continue their college careers next fall with Division I schools -- Riley and catcher Luke Voiron (North Carolina State), Williamson and Fortier-Benson (High Point) and left-hander Brandon Shearman (Tulane).

McMullen also gets an assist from Scheuermann for helping land Voiron and Shearman at Delgado.

Riley (6-2, 200) is hitting .308 with six homers, seven triples, nine doubles and 44 RBIs. Like McMullen, Riley envisioned himself playing for a D-I school and wrestled with the idea of going to a junior college.

“I needed to hear from coach Joe about the myth of junior college baseball,’’ Riley said. “It really is a myth. It’s great baseball, and it’s a great opportunity for guys who don’t get D-I opportunities.

“We get major league scouts here for almost every single game. There is a family atmosphere here playing for a team with a winning tradition. It’s just fun. The biggest myth of all is the quality of the education. I got into Vanderbilt from Delgado. All my credits transfer to anywhere I want to go.’’

Scheuermann, 50, said he is living proof that he’s smarter than a fifth grader, and he has a college diploma to prove it.

“The general perception is if you go to junior college, you’re not very smart,’’ said Scheuermann, who has compiled a 783-402 record in 23 seasons as head coach at the Mid-City school. “That’s unfair. I got a Tulane degree on my wall. If I hadn’t gone to Delgado for two years, I probably wouldn’t have even gone on to college, to be quite honest with you.’’

And now other Delgado graduates are following in the footsteps of Scheuermann, McMullen and recent alumni Brent Bonvillain (LSU) and Nate Fury (LSU), among others.

“I’d be lying if I said I wanted to play junior-college baseball coming out of high school,’’ Riley said. “I remember having a conversation with my dad as a junior about he possibility of Delgado if nothing else came up. I kind of dismissed that, because I didn’t want to play at this level.

“But after meeting with coach Joe and hearing him out and talking with Sean (McMullen), I changed my opinion. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made.’’