Going south

North­east High grad Ju­li­us Spann has ac­cep­ted a base­ball schol­ar­ship to play for the Fran­cis Mari­on Uni­versity Pat­ri­ots in South Car­o­lina.

Base­ball has taken Ju­li­us Spann throughout the world. 

Next stop: South Car­o­lina. 

A nat­ive of Mainz, Ger­many, who moved to North­east Phil­adelphia five years ago, Spann re­cently signed a Na­tion­al Let­ter of In­tent to ac­cept a par­tial ath­let­ic schol­ar­ship to at­tend Fran­cis Mari­on Uni­versity in South Car­o­lina. 

“I was look­ing to go to a very com­pet­it­ive league. The league at Fran­cis Mari­on is one of top leagues in the na­tion,” ex­plained Spann, re­fer­ring to the NCAA Di­vi­sion II Peach Belt Con­fer­ence that in­cludes 13 pro­grams throughout the South. “I went down there for a vis­it (on June 17), and ba­sic­ally that day they told me they were in­ter­ested and wanted me to be part of their pro­gram.”

The feel­ing was mu­tu­al. 

Al­though he was con­sid­er­ing vari­ous oth­er schools, in­clud­ing Mount Olive Col­lege (North Car­o­lina) and Cop­pin State Uni­versity (Mary­land), Spann de­cided that Fran­cis Mari­on would be a per­fect fit. 

“It’s a dream come true to be able to com­pete at that level,” said Spann, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound util­ity play­er who plays first and third base and right­field. “And I get to be close to my fath­er’s side of the fam­ily.”

Al­though Spann and his fath­er, El­more, have settled nicely in North­east Phil­adelphia, they have ex­ten­ded fam­ily in Cam­den, S.C., about 45 minutes from Fran­cis Mari­on Uni­versity. The rest of their fam­ily — in­clud­ing Spann’s moth­er, An­drea — re­main in Ger­many. 

“My fath­er is in the mil­it­ary, and he was sta­tioned in Phil­adelphia,” Spann ex­plained. “I de­cided to move with him. My mom and my broth­er stayed in Ger­many.”

El­more Spann thinks his son is in a bet­ter situ­ation here to try to play pro base­ball.

ldquo;The chance for him to live out his dream of mak­ing the MLB (Ma­jor League Base­ball) is bet­ter over here … go­ing to the right col­lege and get­ting the chance to show­case his skills on the big stage,” ex­plained Spann, now an army ci­vil­ian with more than 32 years of ser­vice. 

Upon his ar­rival in the City of Broth­erly Love, Ju­li­us Spann en­rolled in North­east High School and played for the Vik­ings’ base­ball and soc­cer pro­grams. He earned three varsity let­ters on the dia­mond and in 2009, as a seni­or, was se­lec­ted first-team All-City. 

“North­east High School was a great ex­per­i­ence,” said Spann, who gradu­ated with a 2.8 GPA and also scored an 1190 on his SAT. “It is a really di­verse school. I am Afric­an-Amer­ic­an, but also Ger­man, so I didn’t know what to ex­pect. They treated me very well.”

Fol­low­ing his three-year stint at North­east, Spann re­turned to his home in Ger­many to ful­fill his year of man­dat­ory civil ser­vice, in ac­cord­ance with the Ger­man mil­it­ary. Dur­ing that time, he also played for the Mainz Ath­let­ics in the Ger­man Base­ball As­so­ci­ation. 

“After that year, I de­cided to move back to the U.S. and fur­ther my edu­ca­tion and con­tin­ue to strive to suc­ceed at the game of base­ball,” Spann ex­plained. 

He en­rolled in Mont­gomery County Com­munity Col­lege as a fresh­man last fall and has stud­ied mass com­mu­nic­a­tions and played for the Mus­tangs’ base­ball squad. 

In his rook­ie sea­son, Spann fin­ished with a .348 bat­ting av­er­age, the fourth best on his team. Show­ing both speed and power at the plate, he had 19 RBIs and 31 hits, in­clud­ing sev­en doubles. The Mus­tangs, however, struggled this sea­son, fin­ish­ing 15-26.

Al­though the col­lege sea­son has con­cluded, Spann hasn’t strayed too far from the Mus­tangs’ field. He is help­ing head coach Lou Lom­bardo with a sum­mer base­ball camp, work­ing with ath­letes who are 8 to 12 years of age. 

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Spann, who is also tak­ing a com­puter en­gin­eer­ing class at Mont­gomery County Com­munity Col­lege this sum­mer. “I like teach­ing little kids the fun­da­ment­als of base­ball.”

In a few weeks, he will move to his new South Car­o­lina home and be­gin train­ing with the Fran­cis Mari­on Pat­ri­ots. Spann will con­tin­ue to work to­ward a de­gree in mass com­mu­nic­a­tions, with dreams of be­com­ing a sports broad­caster. 

“I’m ex­cited for school and base­ball,” he said. “Ba­sic­ally be­ing able to play with out­stand­ing ath­letes in the at­mo­sphere they have down south. I’m ex­cited to ex­per­i­ence that south­ern hos­pit­al­ity.” •• 

Ed­it­or Melissa Yerkov can be reached at 215-354-3035 or my­erkov@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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