Coleman Poje is from Atlanta, but first he had to spend his first two years of college in Colorado Springs, Colo. to realize that ultimately he belonged back home at Tech. Poje had grown up playing baseball and football, and he was set on playing both sports at the collegiate level.
“Throughout high school I was hoping to play both football and baseball in college, so the schools that were recruiting me were a lot smaller scale, just because I wasn’t an excellent football player by the time high school came around. As a result, I was looking more into Ivy League schools and D-II, D-III, but I really wanted to play D-I sports,” Poje said.
Poje said that basketball and baseball came easier to him at first, but the challenge of baseball was one that had always intrigued him since he started playing.
“I never really was the best player on baseball teams growing up. I just enjoyed the challenge of trying to get better every day. I guess it was the challenge of trying to get better that kept driving me to keep playing,” Poje said.
Ultimately, Poje was able to convert his efforts getting better at baseball to an offer to play the sport at the Division I level he so coveted. He decided to forego the opportunity to play football, and he applied to the United States Air Force Academy with the promise that if he was accepted, he would be able to play baseball there during his time in the Academy.
“I met Coach Kaz [Mike Kazlausky] from Air Force, and he pretty much said if I could get into the Academy then I would have a spot on the team. … My brother had gone to the Air Force academy, so I knew what I was getting into. That was my only D-I offer and I decided to go with that.” And so Poje headed off to Colorado Springs.
Poje spent two years at Air Force, and while he was there, he made a total of 31 starts, hit for a 0.218 batting average with two home runs and 11 RBIs, and earned Academic All-Conference honors as a civil engineer twice. Poje says that the challenge of doing all that and preparing to eventually serve in the armed forces, was a very unique challenge, shaping his view of college life.
“There are a lot of rules you have to follow there, a lot of guidelines, a lot of inconvenient things that they throw at you throughout your day just to see how you might respond. If you let that get to you, you’re going to be miserable there. The biggest thing I think that I was able to learn while I was there is that when those things come up, you just have to keep on rolling and that it’s not a big deal,” Poje said.
While he learned how to deal with those little things, Poje ultimately learned that the Air Force wasn’t for him while talking to one of his friends.
“One of my roommates, my best friend on the baseball team, had been talking about transferring. During that process, he ended up talking me into thinking a lot more about leaving. After those two years, I realized I wasn’t in love with being in the Air Force anymore. I stepped out on faith and decided to see what would happen. I felt comfortable about making that decision when I did,” Poje said.
He decided to transfer to Tech without any guarantees of playing on the baseball team. Poje recounts how he was fortunate to be able to make the team, and he appreciates the NCAA mandated redshirt year he had to take after transferring.
“I really thought it was an outside chance that I would get a chance to keep playing baseball. I didn’t know the status of the Tech baseball team at the time and if they needed outfielders or really what they needed. So I showed up and was more just lucky that they had a spot for me right away. Honestly, it’s good that I had that year to sit out because I was able to grow a lot in my abilities with the coaching staff here,” Poje said.
Poje initially struggled with being and out of the lineup on a game-to-game basis, but he still posted good numbers making four starts, hitting 0.214 with two home runs and eight RBIs. Going forward, he knows that he has to accept the fact that he might not start on many days. Asked about his goals for this season, he has his sights set on the College World Series in Omaha.
“Our goal is definitely to go to Omaha and win,” Poje said. “Obviously we’ve had a great start, winning our first four this season against some good opponents, so we need to keep that rolling. I’ll continue to play my role, whatever that may be. On days I do get a start, I’ll go out there and perform to the best of my ability. By staying positive, that’s how I’m going to help the team get to Omaha.”