Advertisement

How Georgia baseball star Charlie Condon beat odds to become college baseball’s top player

In the solitude of a batting cage underneath the stands of Foley Field, Charlie Condon worked to sharpen a swing that has carried him into the record books this season.

It was the spring of 2022 and when the Georgia baseball team loaded up its bus for SEC road trips, Condon wasn’t on it.

He practiced with the team, was in the dugout for home games and could go on nonconference road games as a member of the 46-man roster but never played.

2024 MLB mock draft: Who will the Cincinnati Reds take with No. 2 overall pick?

Condon was a walk-on who redshirted his first year on campus.

His fingerprint gave him late night entry to the cage.

“It was usually pretty late,” Condon said. “It was after hours. It would be between 10 and midnight. Sometimes a little later.”

A pitching machine fed him from 50 to 100 balls as Condon hit by himself before he would reload it.

“I did that a lot of nights when the team was on the road,” Condon said. “I would hit breaking balls and fastballs and all different sort of pitch sequences.”

That work ethic is one of the little things that has led to big things for Condon and the Bulldogs.

Georgia baseball's Charlie Condon on path to MLB

Condon is now hitting in the limelight with every at-bat a chance to see him add to a record-setting season.

He will enter No. 6 seed Georgia’s SEC Tournament game Tuesday against LSU holding the record for most home runs this century with 35 and also leads the nation in batting average (.451) and slugging percentage (1.063) and is second in the SEC with 75 RBI. He also can extend a 24-game hitting streak.

Condon has raised his game even more from 2023 when he set an SEC record with 25 home runs and led the team with a .386 average.

“Needless to say some of the success he had last year and the success he’s having this year, the experience he’s having, we didn’t see coming,” his father Jim Condon said. “It’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Condon started playing at about the age of 4 and followed his older brother Matt around to games in the baseball-rich East Cobb area. His older sister, Sarah, graduated from UGA with a degree in finance.

College programs didn’t come beating down the doors for Condon at the Walker School in his hometown of Marietta.

“When I got to our practices, I was really surprised that he didn’t have an offer,” said Dan Garofano, who coached Condon for his final two high school seasons. “He had great power even at 17 years old. He was so fun to watch him take batting practice. He could hit 8, 10 out in a row, pretty much to all fields, too.”

Condon, though, wasn’t even playing on the top level of his club team, 6-4-3 DP Baseball, the summer before his senior year.

“Nobody knew about him,” said Scott Stricklin, the Georgia baseball coach during Condon’s first two years in Athens. “Even his coaches weren’t ready to put him out there and let people know about him.”

Nobody knew about Charlie Condon. Why?

Condon’s father, who works in industrial real estate in the Atlanta area, said being a late bloomer physically and young for his grade hurt his chances of being a recruit.

A bigger factor, he said was the start of the COVID pandemic as his junior season was getting going and continued through his senior season.

“It just locked down coaches from coming to see baseball players play,” he said.

Charlie’s parents had encouraged him to look at smaller schools because they thought he’d have a better chance to play. Charlie played quarterback at the Walker School and Division III schools including Rhodes College in Memphis showed interest in both football and baseball but he never got a formal offer, Charlie and his father said.

Complicating things were college players could return with an extra COVID year of eligibility and the MLB draft was shortened which kept players from turning pro.

Charlie wanted to take a shot at a bigger school anyway.

Stricklin heard about Condon from Paul Fletcher, who coached in Condon's summer league program.

“He said ‘We’ve got a guy that came on, he got stronger,” Stricklin said. “’I think he’s got a chance to help you.”

Condon spoke with Stricklin via Zoom and was offered a chance to walk-on, something no other school offered.

“He was not a preferred walk-on where we helped him get in,” Stricklin said. “He got in on his own because he’s a really good student. …Charlie came in with zero fanfare, no promises and he’s showed up and the rest is history.”

Condon enrolled at Georgia on the Hope and Zell Miller Scholarships because of his strong academics.

“When Charlie walked on campus at the University of Georgia, he had never seen the facilities, he never had met a coach live,” Jim Condon said. “He just walked up and introduced himself.”

Georgia had talked to Condon about a possible redshirt but he thought he proved in fall ball in 2021 that he was ready to play, but he was informed he would be redshirted.

His father said Charlie was frustrated because he didn’t know that there wasn’t room for him on the active roster.

“It was a tough piece of news to hear,” Condon said. “I felt like I had performed well in the fall both on the field and in the classroom.”

The rapid rise of Georgia baseball's Charlie Condon

He needed to get bigger. The 6-foot-6 Condon arrived at campus weighing 190 pounds. He was just under 210 at the start of last season. He’s now at 215.

“There’s no question he could have played as a freshman,” Stricklin said. “We made the decision, let’s get in the weight room, let’s eat as much as you can possibly eat and let’s take the football route like they do for a lot of these linemen. They come in and get bigger, stronger, faster and smarter.”

Condon focused on improving his game for his college debut in February 2023.

“Charlie dealt with it really well and hunkered down and in hindsight it ended up being a blessing,” his father said.

His parents helped by picking him up on SEC road weekends to “distract him,” his father said, bringing him home or going to visit his older sister or brother. Charlie and his father would also play golf.

Condon hit the weight room and put on weight by eating a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and downing chocolate milk.

His breakthrough came at the Northwoods summer league where he played for the St. Cloud (Minn.) Rox and hit 10 home runs in 65 games over 262 at bats.

“It was like baseball boot camp,” Jim Condon said.

He was put on scholarship at Georgia—getting a portion of the 11.7 allotted—before he ever took a college at-bat.

He also lined up an advisor, Brandon O’Hearn, for a possible pro career ahead.

It’s quite a winding road from redshirting two years ago from now being less than two months away from possibly being the No. 1 overall MLB draft pick.

“It’s definitely a big turn of events,” Condon, who plays third base, first base and all three outfield spots, said sitting on a chair inside before a recent practice, one of a string of interviews he’s granted. “It’s something I’ve worked really hard for but something I’m going to have to continue to work hard for. It’s not something that changes overnight."

Can Charlie Condon lead Georgia baseball deep in the NCAA Tournament?

Condon has been the biggest bat in a powerful Georgia lineup that ranks third in the nation in homers and is in position to host an NCAA regional under Wes Johnson. The first-year coach reached out to Condon soon after being hired to replace Stricklin who was fired last year after 10 seasons.

The 21-year old Condon strides to the plate to the Rolling Stones “Paint it Black.” His walk-up song was released 37 years before he was born. He has been spotted in a “Hotel California,” sweatshirt walking into the ballpark.

“I listened to a lot of old rock growing up with my parents,” Condon said. “I like a lot of old school music. I wouldn’t even say the Eagles are that old school, but I’m a big fan of a lot of that stuff.”

Condon has a lot of fans following his every move.

A couple of them drove to South Carolina in hopes of getting their hands on a record home run ball and they did.

They secured the home run ball—Condon’s 34th—that set the BBCOR record, the most cherished individual achievement Condon said he’s had.

College baseball went with BBCOR bats (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) in 2011 replacing the BESR (Ball Exit Speed Ratio) bats to make the game safer and home run rates dipped.

The NCAA record is 48 by Pete Incaviglia in 1985.

“I might need to bust out the old Beezer bats to get to that one,” Condon said.

Condon traded a signed ball and took a photo with the fans in exchange for the record ball.

He’s in the headlines week after week and just keeps bashing.

“The great ones have the ability to expand their mind to uncomfortable levels and accept challenges,” Johnson said. “He’s got that.”

Condon’s father and mother Rebecca get to most of his games, making the hour and a half to two hour drive from Marietta for home games.

“Charlie appears to do a really good job of compartmentalizing,” his father said.

Condon said his disciplined approach has him where he is today, which is perhaps as the greatest Georgia baseball player ever.

“It’s all worked out,” Stricklin said. “I’m just really proud of how he’s handled it. Things haven’t always gone his way. Nothing’s been handed to Charlie. He is a product of talent, hard work, character and an ability to overcome adversity.”

Condon seems at peace with the way his journey unfolded as he tries to get Georgia to the College World Series for the first time since 2008.

“I don’t want to be the best version of myself when I’m a junior in high school,” he said. “I wanted to peak later.”

Condon doesn’t want the result on the field in a game that can have its ups and down to affect him.

“My confidence comes from the work I put in in the offseason, the work that I put in to keep my body in a good spot, to put the best product on the field,” he said. “Sometimes the results are going to work out and things are going to fall and sometimes they’re not. Just knowing, I’m still me every day.”

This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Charlie Condon: Walk-on to redshirt to Georgia baseball home run king