A teammate is headed there. The program has a new coaching staff. And they are in need of a few hitters.
That felt like the perfect situation for Marshalltown Community College sophomore Justen Folger, who recently signed an NCAA Division I baseball scholarship with Alabama A&M.
"I got Ben (Ryder) going down there too and anytime you can go down south and play baseball it's a good opportunity," said Folger. "That definitely played a role. We don't have that opportunity in Iowa. So going down there where it is warm all the time is going to be great."
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHELE FROST/MARSHALLTOWN
MCC sophomore Justen Folger signed his letter of intent this week to play Division I baseball at Alabama A&M. With Folger are hits parents, Kent and Jennifer, seated to his left, and MCC baseball coach Rich Grife, right.
The warmer weather was one of the factors in Folger's decision to choose Alabama A&M. Other were playing time and the fact that he likes the coaching staff, which is its their second full year of taking over a program desperate for a few bats.
"I talked to Ben and some of the coaches and it just felt like something I want to be a part of," Folger said. "I like the coaching staff. That was a big part of my decision."
Folger is one of the leading hitters for the Tigers this season. He could be one of the better hitters for the Bulldogs next year because they are hitting just .240 on the season.
Folger is batting .279 in 32 games in the clean-up slot for the Tigers. He has scored 19 runs, blasted eight doubles and collected 27 RBIs.
"He can hit anywhere in their lineup and play multiple positions for them," MCC coach Rich Grife said. "I absolutely think he will play right away. They will like him a lot."
Folger plays first base for the Tigers but said he will play wherever he is asked to play to assure that he gets on the field right away.
"They told me that I can step in right away and play. That is the plan. I will play wherever they want me to play," said Folger, who prepped at Ankeny High School.
Folger and Ryder, a starting pitcher, head to an Alabama A&M squad that is 5-37 this season. Ryder inked his scholarship during the early signing period in November.
"They've got a new coaching staff so they are being a little bit more aggressive with junior college kids," Grife said of the new connection with Alabama A&M. "They needed a hitter and are actually talking to another one of our hitters, too. They are getting aggressive on the junior college front."
Folger said Alabama A&M was his only Division I offer but he did have a few D-II scholarship offers, including Newman University in Wichita, Kan.
"They are going to be extremely happy with Justen," said Grife. "He is a physical kid. He has fought back from injuries that have set him back. He missed his senior year of high school and the first year here for us. He's a great kid, a great student a very good baseball player."
It is 775 miles from Ankeny to Huntsville, Alabama, where Alabama A&M is located. But Folger is confident the distance away from home will be something he can adjust to, especially since he will be able to play baseball year-round.
"I think I can handle it," Folger said. "I don't go home a lot now during baseball season anyway. It is something I can get used to."