RBI’s Cummings to UMW, club baseball
Ever since he first started playing the game, Northern High School 2015 graduate CJ Cummings has loved baseball. And always wanted to play college baseball.
Now that dream will be a reality for Cummings playing intercollegiate club baseball at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia.
Cummings played catcher for the #4 ranked Maryland Class 3A high school baseball team last spring and is a key cog on his three-time defending Maryland AAU state championship RBI travel team. He’s glad to have his high school career behind him and the college school year underway.
“I knew for a while that I was probably going to end up going to Mary Washington,” Cummings said. “Their facilities are very nice and I like the location. They are one of the top small colleges in the Nation and meet all my academic needs.”
The Eagles field a National Collegiate Baseball Association (NCBA) club baseball program. The NCBA is a national athletic association, like the NCAA for college athletes.
A "club" team is not the same as a college varsity sport funded by the athletic department. Club baseball teams are funded usually through the intramurals and recreation department.
Club teams form in two ways — one is lack of funding to field a varsity team. The other way to form a club is schools that have a varsity team who choose to field a second team, such as Mary Washington.
The Eagles play in the NCBA's Division 2 District III – South Conference, which consists of Roanoke, Longwood, Old Dominion, Radford, and Virginia Commonwealth universities.
Cummings is hoping he can break into the club team lineup as a freshman. His goal is to continue playing baseball in college as opportunity presents itself, whether that means club or improving so he can eventually try out to possibly play for UMW’s NCAA Division III baseball team.
Cummings said, “I am looking forward to getting a better feel for the faster pace of college baseball and showing what I can do.”
It doesn’t matter if Cummings is playing in a doubleheader or his fifth game of the week — if he has any say in it, he is playing third base or catching. Although the positions can be physically and mentally grinding, Cummings wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I just like being involved in every play and being the coach on the field at catcher. It’s a leadership role and you get to work with the pitchers,” Cummings said. “I just think it’s fun and I love playing third too.”
He can also pitch. In two summer reliefs for RBI, he worked two scoreless innings with 4 strikeouts and no hits allowed. “CJ pounds the strike zone,” Maryland RBI manager Mike Graham said.
Cummings’ older brother Jake played lacrosse at Piedmont College in Georgia and East Carolina University, and his sister Carley played lacrosse at Manhattan College. His dad Chris, who coaches his RBI team, played both college baseball as well as basketball at Eisenhower College and Rochester Tech in New York.
CJ has played at a high level during summer travel ball since he was 10 and 11 years old when he played for the Chesapeake Legends and for RBI since he was 12. Throughout he played under his dad and Coach Graham.
In AAU this summer, CJ batted .288 with 3 doubles, 1 triple, and 11 runs batted in. As a senior at Northern HS, Cummings hit .273 for the Patriots in 2015 with a .304 OBP.
"It’s been fun," he said. "My dad and Coach Graham have been my coaches since T-ball. Our RBI program is based on advanced skills development for competing in high school and college, and teaches you well starting at a young age.”
Cummings is a quiet guy who doesn’t often show much emotion on the field.
“He’s a good ball player and all and as tough as a pine knot,” said his dad, “but what I’m most proud of is there's not a player or coach who knows him who wouldn't swear to his personal integrity and honesty and his sportsmanship and testify to his consideration of others. He's an extraordinary team player.”
CJ caught the eye of college coaches at the Delaware Top96, Dugout and Keystone Showcase games. Along the way, he got looks from Millersville, Central Penn, Lancaster, and Harford.
Maryland RBI manager Graham likes the move to club ball at Mary Washington.
“I’ve known that CJ had collegiate level potential since he was 11 with the Legends,” Graham said. “It’s a great move he’s making to be able to continue playing the game after high school.
“It’s a good experience and he will get to see that level of baseball and what the expectations are after high school. It will be nice for him to continue playing the next few years.”
Only 17 years old, Cummings is looking forward to AAU eligibility for two more seasons with Maryland RBI. So are his coaches.
“CJ’s always going to give his team 100 percent,” Coach Graham said. “He has battled through adversity and injury (spiked calf) and performs well in a variety of roles. He changes the game with his defense and his head.
“Our coaching staff watch him make play after play and think WOW, I can't believe this—he doesn't catch balls hit near him, he sort of just absorbs them—incredibly soft hands. I don’t think we’ve seen the best out of CJ Cummings yet in a baseball uniform.”