NSW baseball athlete, Chris Layman, is no stranger to trying new things, but a four-year US college adventure was a whole new level for the talented athlete.
Exploring a variety of sporting pathways in his youth including soccer, AFL, karate and rugby, Chris’ interests were fleeting for all sports except one.
After being intrigued by a man in a fancy uniform at a local shopping centre, Chris’ passion for baseball began.
At just four years old, Chris began his baseball journey, and now as a high school graduate, awaits his August arrival on campus at SUNY Jefferson, a college in the prime location of New York.
SUNY Jefferson took Chris and his family’s fancy immediately, a variety of aspects of the college ticking all the right boxes.
“The first offer I got I jumped on, my parents were pretty stoked. Once we looked into the school we thought it was a great option. The history of team success really drew me in as well, it was an attractive school for me,” Chris said.
While the young talent is exceptionally excited for his journey to begin come August, it wasn’t always this way.
Hesitation loomed early for Chris when he incorporated a US MLB umpire school opportunity in Florida with a quick visit to his future college earlier this year.
As he boarded a plane to sign his national Letter of Intent, committing to SUNY Jefferson’s baseball program, Chris found himself nervous and uncertain of the pathway he had chosen all those years ago when he first confirmed his NSR/US college pathway.
“At first when I got on the plane from Florida to New York I was thinking; what am I getting into, I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Chris admitted.
Chris’ concerns were quickly alleviated on arrival to the Jefferson campus, where he felt immediately comforted by the welcoming nature of US college students, his future coach, and an insight into the experiences of NSR athletes who are also at SUNY Jefferson; Josh Harvey and Ben Wilcox.
“One of the biggest fears is being the foreigner, but being able to get that early insight into how they fit in was awesome,” he said.
His quick visit to the campus allowed him to understand the level of sport he was about to enter into, a reality that both impressed and confronted Chris.
“When I was over there, just looking at the ability they all had, in a community college in upstate New York compared to anything here was far greater to what you can imagine. Playing baseball over there far outweighs what you can do over here,” he noted.
Meeting his future coach and getting a brief idea of what college has in store for him left Chris eagerly anticipating his August entry to the US college system. The talented pitcher is in for more gruelling training and difficult time-management than he has ever encountered, a challenge he will tackle head-on.
Chris and his family highly valued the approach the SUNY Jefferson baseball coach took to communicating and supporting Chris, as an international student.
“My coach is awesome. He was really supportive and he really gave advice as well as keeping me in the loop. He emails me every two or so weeks to see what’s happening. It keeps me aware of what I’m doing and it shows that he is in touch and cares about his players,” Chris said of his future coach.
Hoping to study criminal justice and perform well in his sport, Chris has a busy schedule ahead of him between study, sport and a social life on campus in the US. The US college pathway for a student-athlete is no easy option, yet Chris is one of hundreds of Australian students who choose to follow this rewarding opportunity every year.
Chris left aspiring college student-athletes from Australia and New Zealand with a few words of advice.
“I’d say get started early so you can get some practice tests in, videos done and as many up onto your profile as possible.
“Don’t leave anything too late. More coaches will get to see more of you, and you’re left with less angst if you start the process early,” he said.
Chris’ goals as a college freshman are to get off on the right foot, perform well academically and athletically and ultimately improve beyond his current level. The excitement for the Layman family is building as his entry into the US college system approaches rapidly.
“Pulling on the jersey for the first time will be a pretty big moment. It’s not every day that you sign for a college team and get to play a game, so that’ll definitely be something I am looking forward to!
“The whole experience is something I’ve been looking forward to for about five or six years since I first heard about the American college opportunity,” Chris said.