Wichita State’s baseball team rarely loses players, and when they do transfer it’s usually to a lower level. In recent years, I can think of Brian Spears (who transferred to Kentucky) alone as a player who departed WSU for a similar program.
So Josh Rosecrans’ signing with Alabama struck me as intriguing. Rosecrans spent his freshman season in 2009 at WSU. He came to WSU with a reputation as a good hitter with a good work ethic. He departed a year later, when NCAA roster limits forced coach Gene Stephenson to cut five players. All five were out-of-state players, who would have paid out-of-state tuition to remain at WSU. “It was difficult for both (sides),” Rosecrans said last summer. “I loved it there. Gene was good. I loved the coaches. It just didn’t work out in the end.” Rosecrans hit .259 with four doubles in 108 at-bats and 29 starts at WSU. When he left, I remember being mildly surprised, largely because of how highly regarded he was out of high school in Edmond, Okla. As a Shocker, he showed little pop and didn’t hit enough to force his way into the worst hitting lineup of the Stephenson era.The 2009 team needed shaking up, and few hitters did enough to be comfortable with a reserved spot on the roster for 2010.
Rosecrans left WSU to find a place where he could catch and play more. That wasn’t going to happen with Cody Lassley and Chris O’Brien on the roster in 2010.
He went to Grayson (Texas) Community College to work on his catching. The move worked out well. He hit .469 with 14 home runs and was named second-team All-American in the NJCAA – behind No. 1 pick Bryce Harper.
Rosecrans said he left WSU on good terms. The season he spent at WSU, he said, revealed that he wasn’t quite ready for Division I baseball. He worked on those deficiencies, offensively and defensively, and it paid off when the SEC came calling this summer. “I got a lot of playing time and I got some confidence,” he said. “I got in a groove.” Grayson coach Dusty Hart said Rosecrans endured two wakeup calls to push him along. The first came when WSU cut him. The second came when fall baseball ended at Grayson and he didn’t own a scholarship offer. If Rosecrans blamed a lack of playing time for his struggles at WSU, the fall at Grayson proved Shocker coaches weren’t alone in their evaluation. Rosecrans needed more work to play Division I baseball. “We were very honest with him and said ‘Josh, if you were better defensively you would have five or six scholarship offers,’” Hart said. “‘People aren’t going to sign you just as a DH.’” Rosecrans worked on his catching, coming early and staying late. By the end of the spring, he was Grayson’s best catcher. Hart calls him serviceable now and said he needs to continue working on his defensive skills. “I think he just needed playing time,” Hart said. “He’s a very toolsy kid. He’s very coachable.” Should Rosecrans bash his way through the SEC, Shocker fans will wonder “What if?” Had Rosecrans stayed at WSU, however, he may never have developed into the player he did at Grayson.