College athletics can be a revolving door, sometimes serendipitously as was the case for Simi Valley High catcher Brant Voth.
Voth moved to Southern California his freshman year after being born and raised in Oklahoma and also living in Illinois. He enjoys the warm weather and expected to revel in the Southland sunshine for his collegiate years. He committed to UC Santa Barbara as a sophomore.
That’s when a coaching carousel went into motion.
The Gaucho coaches Voth had the best relationships with both moved on to new jobs. Neil Walton initially recruited Voth to Santa Barbara. He joined the Cal State Fullerton staff before Voth’s junior year. Eddie Cornejo then became Voth’s primary contact. He left Santa Barbara last summer, later taking a job with San Jose State. Their departures led Voth to de-commit from UC Santa Barbara.
“I loved Eddie,” Voth said. “When he left, I was like it’s time to go. I don’t know what’s up. I had [Perfect Game] National and a bunch of stuff to go through that really I thought would get me in front of a lot of big programs.”
Voth attended Perfect Game’s national showcase event in Florida during the summer and caught the eye of Central Florida pitching coach Justin Parker. Parker tried to recruit Voth to UCF, but soon Parker accepted a new position, joining former teammate and colleague Jeff Mercer. Both had played and been assistant coaches together at Wright State, where Mercer eventually ascended to the head coach position and led the Raiders to 77 wins in two seasons. He was tabbed by Indiana University last summer to lead its program.
Mercer’s hire was soon followed by the de-commitment of Chesterfield, Mo., catcher Kurtis Byrne from Indiana. Parker quickly called Voth.
“He’s like, ‘Hey we don’t have a catcher,’ ” Voth said. “I went on the official visit and it was just like family. They picked us up and it just seemed like family to me and someone I would always want to be around.
“That campus was beautiful. The weather wasn’t even great when I was out there. It was like 29 degrees and windy, but just like beautiful and then they took me to the facility. I would have never thought it would be like that, but it’s awesome and I love it.”
The Indiana coaches did something unique during Voth’s official visit that sold him on Mercer and the Hoosiers.
“Whenever I went on other visits, everybody was like ‘Here’s our football stadium. Here’s our cool gear,’ ” Voth said.
Indiana gave him the full layout of the campus and showed him the threads Voth would be sporting, but when they were in the coaches’ offices, Mercer pulled Voth and his family over to a computer where he had video of Voth pulled up.
“He talked to me about hitting, talked to me about catching,” Voth said. “He’s like, ‘Hey, if you come here, you’re going be like transcendent. We view you as the transcendent piece. We’re going to change a little bit and hopefully get you going and stuff.’ ”
Mercer broke down where the Indiana staff would alter his game, what drills and approaches they would use to implement the change and how it would improve him as a player.
“I like the way that he actually took me aside and he already had video of me and was like, ‘Look. We can make this better. We can make a finished product that’s going to be better when you come out of college.’ I’m really looking forward to going there.”
Voth wants to continue Indiana’s recent lineage of dependable catchers, a list that includes two first-round picks over the last decade in Kyle Schwarber and Josh Phegley. Voth will have an opportunity to earn early playing time. The Hoosiers lose their top two catchers, Wyatt Cross and Ryan Fineman, to graduation, leaving an open competition between freshman Jeff Holtz, who has not played, Voth and junior college transfer Hunter Combs for the starting spot.