The journey to play Division I athletics is different for many student-athletes. Typically, playing at a Division I university begins with the recruitment process in high school. For other student-athletes, the opportunity to play comes from a different path. 

Junior colleges, also known as JUCOs, are another way for student-athletes to make it to Division I athletics. These colleges provide athletes with the opportunity to learn more about their sport, train their bodies and get early experience with college level drills and competition. Elon baseball welcomed four junior college transfers to the team for the 2022-23 year after bringing in one or two per year for the past few seasons. For redshirt junior infielder Tanner Holliman, this was the path before reaching his Elon baseball career. 

Holliman, who transferred from Northern Oklahoma College, said attending a JUCO was the best option for his baseball career before moving up to a Division I school. 

“I felt like it was an opportunity for me to play and get better,” Holliman said. “It was able to provide me with the opportunity to go to the next step and play Division I baseball.”

Holliman committed to Elon after three seasons at Northern Oklahoma College. Before his visit, he said he didn’t know much about Elon, but is impressed with his experience so far. 

“The education here is great,” Holliman said. “The coaching staff here is unbelievable and the team, the guys here are awesome too.”

Holliman has enjoyed his time at Elon, but also said that going to a junior college was a great experience.

"I feel like junior college has been a really fun opportunity," Holliman said. "It's kind of one of those things where you don't understand it unless you go."

Sydney Spencer | Elon News Network
Sophomore right fielder Adam Berry runs off the field after an inning at Wake Forest University. The Phoenix lost 20-0, and Berry had one of the two hits during the game for Elon.

Similarly, sophomore outfielder Adam Berry transferred to Elon after attending Pasco-Hernando State College from 2021-22. Berry said that the experience he received there has been influential toward his career, and that more people should take advantage of junior colleges.

"Even though junior college might not be the coolest thing to go to, I think it's something that all people should experience if you have the opportunity to do it," Berry said. "They could pay off for you."

He said moving to North Carolina was a big decision, but that it was worth it in order to move to the next level in his athletic career. 

“It's really competitive because of a lot of guys, really, they’re trying to move on to the next level,” Berry said. “They’re working as hard as they can and are just trying to get seen, get noticed and get recruited to another school.”

Taking advantage of Elon’s newer facilities, weight rooms, equipment and new teammates have been a breath of fresh air for Berry, but he credits his junior college experience to be the reason for his prepared background.  

“I’ve learned experience is something that’s really important, whether it’s on the baseball field or just in life and in your job,” Berry said. 

Head coach Mike Kennedy said both Berry and Holliman came out of junior college baseball with preparation that has prepared them for Elon baseball. 

“Their first experiences of Division I baseball playing at the highest level have put a little bit of pressure on themselves, but they’re both very talented,” Kennedy said. 

Being recruited from a junior college to a new university is similar to the process of being recruited out of high school. The benefit is that students have more high level game experience and there are more opportunities for college coaches to see a player in action. Coaches, such as Kennedy, have the chance to scout new players at their JUCO games and showcases.

“You’re seeing more and more kids going that route, especially with COVID, and with the older kids on rosters, high school kids are seeing that some of their opportunities are limited as to what it used to be,” Kennedy said. 

Both Holliman and Berry credit success to their coaches and teammates around them, but they do whatever it takes to do their part — even if their personal preparation is a little out of the ordinary.

“I take a shower before every game, I always have to have two pieces of gum in, and before every at bat, when I step into the box, I re-lace my batting gloves or re-tape them and take a deep breath,” Holliman said.

This routine has helped Holliman lead Elon’s roster in home runs on the season with seven. 

For Berry, pre-game traditions include a meal at Boar’s Head and the order he puts on his gloves and the location of his bat in the dugout. .  

“The order I put on my batting gloves and where I place my bat in the dugout,” Berry said. “If I don’t get a hit with it being in a certain spot, it goes to a different spot.”

According to Kennedy, Berry is someone to watch on the base path with his speed, having stolen three bases on three attempts so far this season.

Elon  plays in the Colonial Athletic Association. This high level playing environment is a step up coming from playing in leagues that are not part of the NCAA. Holliman and Berry have enjoyed the competition the conference has provided them so far, and they said they have high expectations for the rest of the season.

“Our team’s expectation is to win the CAA Championship,” Berry said. “Nothing less, and I think we’re fully capable of doing that.”

After their conference series sweep against Delaware, Elon sits atop the CAA standings and looks towards their next conference matchup against Towson.