When Zach Esquerra showed up at California Baptist University as a freshman in 2009, things were looking up for him; he came on a scholarship to play baseball along with his twin brother — and his talent was evident.
People could not help but look up to him and his 6-foot-4-inch frame. Coaches marveled at his ability to make the long ball look so easy. However, five months later, his season was cut short by devastating news that he needed surgery on his right shoulder and would be unable to play for the rest of the season.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association grants a player only four years of eligibility, and Esquerra was not willing to waste one of those years on behalf of his injured shoulder. He decided to redshirt.
Redshirting is a process which allows a student athlete a fifth year of eligibility. While still able to practice and suit up for games with the team, the process requires the student athlete to sit out from participating in game competition for one full year.
Redshirting presents multiple options to the player, team and coaches.
Like Esquerra, some athletes need time to regain health, but there are others that use redshirting as a time to mature as athletes.
“My redshirt year was a time to develop, get bigger, stronger and be able to learn the CBU system for a whole year,” Esquerra said. “I don’t think I would have had the success I did in my redshirt freshman year without the extra time under coach (Gary) Adcock.”
Esquerra’s second season, his redshirt freshman season, was one to remember. He hit 17 home runs and was a major factor in the team’s post-season appearance.
Although Esquerra had the option to choose to redshirt here at CBU, many other programs do not let athletes decide whether or not to utilize the possibility.
“When I coached at UCLA and Purdue, the option to redshirt didn’t belong to players,” said head coach Gary Adcock. “But because CBU costs $36,000 and baseball is a partial-scholarship sport, it has become something where I let players choose if they want to spend money for the extra year.”
In Esquerra’s case, it benefitted both him and the team. “With Zach, he could have helped us in 2010 once he got healthy,” Adcock said. “But we knew it would be better for him and the future of the program if he just waited until the next year to declare him eligible.”