GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For some athletic programs around the nation, the coronavirus has forced budget cuts of various magnitudes. Whether it be coaches taking pay cuts or certain sports being dropped completely, athletes at the schools have had to reevaluate their situations.
For collegiate pitcher Jeremy Spezia, this became a reality May 15. That’s when he found out that Bowling Green would no longer have a baseball program.
As reality began to set in, Spezia knew he had to find a new home for baseball. A junior with two years of eligibility remaining in college, he entered the NCAA transfer portal.
With universities of all sizes reaching out to the right-hander, Spezia had a hard time shortening his list.
He ultimately announced his decision on Twitter Sunday, and his destination was a familiar name: Grand Valley State University.
“My heart was broken, but then Grand Valley reached out,” Spezia said. “We had been talking since high school but went our separate ways when I chose Bowling Green. Coach (Jamie) Detillion really blew me away with everything he had to offer.
“I knew a couple players and it just felt comfortable to call this place home.”
Though he’s from Clinton Township on the east side of Michigan, Spezia is familiar with West Michigan. His brother Tyler Spezia was playing hockey for the Grand Rapids Griffins before COVID-19 brought the season to a halt.
Tyler Spezia’s first stint with the Griffins was in 2018-19 before he was traded to the Toledo Walleye prior to the 2019-20 season. Jeremy Spezia was already playing baseball for Bowling Green, just 25 minutes down the road from his brother playing for the Walleye. Tyler Spezia also attended Bowling Green, where the two were in school together for a year before Tyler Spezia started in the American Hockey League.
“Now with the possibility of my brother signing with the Griffins, it feels like I’ve followed him everywhere,” Jeremy Spezia said. “Knowing he will be around the corner, granted his situation, is pretty cool.”
While he does not know how he will be used at GVSU, Spezia’s breakout sophomore season proved he has a lethal arm out of the bullpen. The 6-foot-2, 184-pound pitcher led the team with six saves while recording a 3.57 earned run average and striking out 27 batters. He walked 16 hitters in 40.1 innings of work.
The Falcons were a Division I program and the Lakers are Division II, but Spezia said his decision wasn’t about the level he would be playing at; rather, it was about how comfortable he felt with a program.
“A lot of my friends play Division I so it will be different and I’ll miss playing the Michigan and Michigan State, but I also have a couple buddies playing in Division II,” Jeremy said. “It doesn’t feel like going down. I could’ve played elsewhere. Everybody speculates differently but I feel like Grand Valley could take down a lot of Division I programs.
“I wanted to go somewhere where the guys compete and collect W’s.”
Grand Valley has had a winning team in six of the last seven years since Detillion took over as the head coach. 2019 was the exception; the Lakers finished 15-27-1.
Due to coronavirus restrictions, Spezia’s interactions with the schools courting him were over the phone or online. Without getting a feel for the schools in person, he had to think deeply before electing where he would journey to next.
“Everyone was reaching out all over the country and you don’t really know what you’re getting into with just seeing pictures and stuff,” Spezia said. “I’ve visited GV a few times as a spectator and I just went with the gut feeling of what felt comfortable.”
Now he’ll will be more than a spectator at GVSU. He’ll come on the mound wearing the blue and black.