Going the junior college baseball route allowed former Waterloo High standout shortstop Brad Dillenberger to gain the time he needed to mature.
With two strong seasons at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City, Mo., Dillenberger turned that experience into a Division I baseball scholarship and signed recently with Central Arkansas.
"I felt like I always had the tools to be successful and play at the Division I level, I just wasn't big enough yet," said Dillenberger, who credited the nearly 30 pounds he gained over the last two years to an assistant coach former Miami Marlins prospect who brought the Marlins workout to Maple Woods. "They did a great job of getting mg bigger, faster and stronger. I don't think I'd be the player I was today if I'd have gone D-I out of high school."
Dillenberger hit .277 in 51 games this spring with 11 doubles, one triple, two homers and 11 RBIs. He also scored 39 runs and had nine stolen bases.
He was chosen as an All-Region XVI player and Defensive Player of the Year, helping the Monarchs win their first regional championship since 2009. Maple Woods entered the regional as a No. 3 seed, but knocked off highly regarded and second-ranked Crowder College to win the title and eventually got within one game of the Junior College World Series.
"We got hot at the right time," said Dillenberger, who was asked to name his top college baseball memory this far. "Definitely winning the regional title my sophomore year and bearing the second-ranked team in the nation when we were a .500 ballclub."
As a senior, Dillenberger helped Waterloo High reach the Class 3A state tournament.
"Brad's the kind of kid that continues to get better and better," Waterloo coach Mark Vogel said. "He was always a solid player for us, but he hasn't reached his ceiling yet and you can just tell that.
"He's put on over 20 pounds of music and continues to get better and better. He's got a wonderful opportunity."
Maple Woods is best known to St. Louis Cardinals fans as the college where Albert Pujols played for one season before being drafted.
"He comes back every year to talk to us,' Dillenberger said of Pujols. "My freshman year he talked to us for about three years."
Dillenberger also had interest from Illinois State and Lamar before choosing Central Arkansas, located in Conway, Ark. Central Arkansas, perhaps best known as the college home of former NBA star Scottie Pippen, was in the baseball Top 25 earlier this season and competes in the Southland Conference.