Serra baseball star Mark Black commits to juco that produced Jose Bautista, Russell Martin

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Sunday, June 14, 2020 | 10:24 PM


Serra Catholic baseball star Mark Black had his future mapped out way in advance, committing to St. John’s before his sophomore year, until the coronavirus pandemic turned the world upside down.

So, the recent graduate decided to reconsider.

A power-hitting catcher with MLB aspirations, Black announced plans Sunday to de-commit from St. John’s and attend Chipola College in Marianna, Fla., a junior college that counts Russell Martin, Jose Bautista and Patrick Corbin among its alumni.

The team won NJCAA national titles in 2017 and ’18.

“Chipola College is a prestigious junior college,” Black said. “They’ve had a lot of pro guys come through there. Every year they have five or 10 guys move on to Power 5 conferences. That was really appealing to me.”

As a junior at Serra Catholic, Black batted .521 with 14 home runs, 41 RBIs and 33 runs scored while leading his team to the WPIAL Class 2A finals and an appearance in the state championship. He was named the 2019 TribLive HSSN Baseball Player of the Year.

His senior season was canceled in response to covid-19.

The move to a junior college makes Black eligible for the MLB Draft in 2021 and ‘22. He likely would’ve heard his name called last week, if the draft hadn’t been cut to five rounds.

If he’d attended St. John’s or any other four-year school, he’d have to wait until 2023 to be draft eligible again.

Black’s advisor, Jeff Randazzo of Ballengee Group, connected him with Chipola coach Jeff Johnson, who’s entering his 23rd year at the school.

“It gives me another few years of eligibility for the draft as well as a reset for college baseball,” Black said.

Above draft eligibility, there were other factors that influenced his decision.

For one, St. John’s campus is in Queens, N.Y., a hotspot for the coronavirus outbreak. Black and his family were concerned that the pandemic would affect semester schedules.

“I really didn’t want to miss the entire fall development of my freshman year,” he said. “That was a little concerning.”

Also, there’s the dilemma of a crowded St. John’s roster.

Since spring sports were canceled this year, college players were granted an additional season of eligibility. That means players who would’ve graduated or could’ve been drafted will be returning next season.

“You’ve got studs that will be back on campus for their senior year,” Black said.

Chipola has produced 18 major leaguers under Johnson, according to the school’s website. Johnson’s career record is 866-396-2 with three juco national titles.

The school’s setting is quite a bit different than New York City. Chipola is in Florida’s panhandle, about an hour northwest of Tallahassee. Marianna has around 7,000 residents.

“It seems like the best fit for me,” Black said, “to go down there right in the middle of rural Florida and do nothing but play baseball and get better.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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