With college students starting classes in the coming weeks, the path to campus for athletes can vary significantly from other students. While many young athletes dream of playing in college, the chances of doing so are slim.
But as recruited athletes across the country reported their college commitments this summer, we came across this remarkable story of a pitcher from Mendocino College (CA) who earned an athletic scholarship to Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. Overcoming significant geographical and health barriers along the way, Jonathan Harmyk's journey shows how much dedication and perseverance it can take to reach the next level.
To congratulate him, we interviewed Jonathan's coach and father and have published their remarks here without any major edits. We hope that his story serves as inspiration to other athletes in pursuit of their dreams.
Note: Mendocino County is a rural area located in Northern California with a population fewer than 100,000 residents. Despite a successful program over the years, the team faces challenges due to its remote location.
Mendocino College Assistant Baseball Coach, Aaron Ford:
Our recruiting district is so much farther northwest than anyone else and can be very restrictive to the type of players we can recruit.
But a couple of years ago, we brought in a guy who showed a lot of promise. His name is Jonathan Harmyk, a 6'6" pitcher from the local area. After having a great first year at Mendocino, Jonathan continued his development by pitching over the summer.
Then, a setback happened, and Jonathan required Tommy John surgery to fix his elbow. It's such a serious operation that not everyone is able return to the playing field.
Jonathan thought his career was done. He was devastated.
However, he's such a high character kid and a hard worker. I told him to continue fighting, do his rehab, and that we would go from there.
He was able to make a full recovery and help lead our pitching staff. This past season, he finished his junior college eligibility. So the time came for Jonathan to try and find a 4-year school to attend, and he came to me to weigh his options.
In the past, getting our players exposure outside of our immediate area could be very difficult. While I have developed relationships with some college coaches over the years, I don't know everyone. I'm a junior college coach. I'm not George Horton (University of Oregon). I'm not Augie Garrido (University of Texas - Austin). I'm not Mike Gillespie (University of California - Irvine).
Now I'm using FieldLevel to help kids live the dream I did during my playing career. It's a great resource to get our kids out there. Most players think they are going D1 and then playing pro ball. Not everyone can go play in the PAC 12 or SEC. It's a rude awakening sometimes, but there are still plenty of opportunities out there.
With Jonathan, we were able to get him in front of almost 40 different college programs. Among them were the coaches at Evangel University, and they liked what they saw.
And he isn't the only one. Even today, I had a coach from Kentucky reach out to me about one of our infielders. We also have a kid going on to play D1 in North Carolina.
Jonathan's Father, John Harmyk Sr.:
In high school, Jonathan excelled in football, basketball, and baseball but baseball was his passion. Baseball is what he wants to do. It's a tough road, but he wants to make a living at it.
The injury occurred early in 2012, and it was really difficult. But the surgery went well, and he was able to come back strong.
During his last season at Mendocino, we would log into FieldLevel to see what schools across the country were looking for and where he matched up. With schools that contacted his coaches on there, he would then follow up with them directly.
One day, I was on a business trip in Phoenix, and he called to tell me that Evangel was very interested in him. They made a strong offer. They wanted him to come in and be their number one starter. Their previous guy had been drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals.
We later went on a visit and loved the school and coaching staff. Being in Springfield, it also provides great exposure to some pro scouts because one the St. Louis Cardinals' minor league teams is based there. So he's looking forward to it.
To prepare this summer, he's been working out with pitching expert, Tom House. He's throwing well and has his velocity back above 90MPH.
Baseball is his dream, and he works hard. Until it has to end, whenever that may be, we're in support of it.
Next Stop: Missouri
When asked what advice he would offer fellow athletes in smaller towns or those battling back from an injury, Johnathan Harmyk Jr. said simply, "Never give up on your dreams."