Oscar Hargreaves is busy living out his college baseball dreams. The Victorian State Team player is now in his second year at Williston State College in North Dakota, having stayed overseas for the U.S. summer ball season.
After growing up playing grassroots baseball with local clubs Greensborough, Preston, and Waverley, Hargreaves took everything he learned in club ball and BV High Performance training and set off for college in the American Midwest last year.
Great First Year On The Field
The second baseman's first year of college baseball proved awesome.
"My team, school, and town were all extremely welcoming which made it very easy to settle in," Hargreaves said. "The baseball aspect was like something I hadn’t ever experienced before. I had to get into a routine very quickly otherwise I felt like I would fall too far behind early. Throughout the whole fall, we ran as a team at 6am every weekday morning and practiced almost every day in the afternoon."
That consistent training combined with exhibition games helped Hargreaves and his fellow Tetons get ready for the season. By the time spring rolled around, they were ready to go, starting every weekday morning off strong with 5am practice or team gym lifts.
One of the standout moments for Hargreaves was a March trip to Tucson, Arizona to play in a tournament before their conference games began.
"Tucson was definitely a highlight of my freshman year," he said. "We played a total of 11 games in 14 days in Tucson, which felt a lot like the state tournaments back home in Australia."
Making it to the regional championship after finishing second in the conference tournament was another highlight, as the Tetons went 34-15 overall. The first season taught Hargreaves a lot, as he went 55 for 164 for a .335 average in 46 games.
"My favourite thing about college baseball so far would have to be playing and practicing every day. College baseball doesn’t really have off days," he said. "There is almost always something that you could be doing that day which I really like as it keeps me busy and gives me something to look forward to every day. Another enjoyable thing is the people you meet and friendships you make that will last a lifetime."
Hargreaves credits junior baseball in Victoria with helping him prepare for the competitive side of college baseball.
"College baseball is a grind, everyone has to earn their spots, no matter if you’re a returner or new to the program. I feel that as I moved up the ranks in junior baseball and had to earn a position on the field every year was quite similar to how college baseball works," he explained. "At a representative level I learnt how to be around the team and live with teammates. This was a big help for me as I felt like the transition to college baseball was somewhat easier as I had already experienced living with teammates while travelling with representative teams. In college you’re around your teammates 24/7, especially if you live in dorm rooms with them."
Staying for Summer Ball
After finding his groove as a freshman, Hargreaves decided to stay for the summer ball season. He headed to Augusta, Kansas to compete in the Kansas Collegiate Baseball League (KCBL) with the Kansas Cannons, who played a total of 46 games with a 37-9 record. The infielder gained a lot from this experience and playing against a high level of competition and finished with a .354 summer batting average, the second-highest on the Cannons.
"I was able to learn new things from different coaches as well as from the other players that I played with. Another major positive was the ability to make connections with new coaches that could possibly help me transfer to a 4-year school after I finish my sophomore year at junior college," Hargreaves added.
Hargreaves embraced the opportunity to continue playing every day, although he missed his family and friends. Even so, he's not taking his time overseas for granted and enjoys being surrounded by different sporting teams and athletes, including college voleyball, basketball, hockey, and softball.
He also wasn't the only Aussie, or Victorian for that matter, to stay for summer ball. He was joined by catcher and fellow state representative Mason Wray who also played for the Cannons. The duo met up with Ben Fierenzi, who played for the Hays Larks after his season with Arizona Western College. Victorians Henry Hayman, Riley Light, and Kobe Greenhalgh were a few others who took part in summer ball.
Looking to the Future
After freshman year and summer ball, Hargreaves is eager to keep improving and chasing his goals both on and off the field.
"One major goal that I have for myself in a baseball setting is to continue to grow my knowledge for the game as well as to get bigger and stronger in the weight room," Hargreaves said. "In the classroom I want to strive to maintain my 4.0 GPA so that I can get academic scholarship money when I transfer to a university."
Hargreaves hopes to continue his collegiate career by studying kinesiology or sport science and seeing where his baseball journey can take him. His advice for players looking to follow in his footsteps is to stick at it and focus on their strengths, while also embracing the fun of junior baseball before the competition gets more serious.
"Another big thing is not comparing yourself to your peers as college baseball has taught me that everyone has their own skill sets and are different to each other," Hargreaves said. "One last piece of advice I’d give to junior players is to just have fun. You hear it all the time as a junior, but you never really realise the importance of it until it’s finished. College baseball will always be there for you, but junior baseball goes by so fast. Junior baseball was some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing the game."