By Corey Donetz
Rider’s Brandon Cotten has come a long way since signing a letter of intent to play baseball with the Broncs over three years ago, and he hopes to continue his stellar play throughout his senior year as he grows into a potential MLB prospect.
The 6’2” senior out of Wiconisco, Pa. has been a staple in the Rider outfield since taking over the center field position halfway through his rookie year. In his first three years as a Bronc, Cotten has achieved numerous awards including earning First Team All-MAAC honors in 2011. However, all of the individual awards take a backseat to the accomplishments that the team achieves.
“No award is more important to me than winning the MAAC championship my sophomore year,” Cotten said. “That’s the best memory of my career and far better than any individual award that I’ve won.”
Cotten began playing organized baseball at the young age of five and center field has been his home since the age of seven. Growing up there were a few mentor figures that have had a lasting impact on him to this day.
“I pay attention to the game a lot and I really learned by watching the big leaguers,” Cotten said. “When I was younger though, my dad would spend hours with me, hitting me fly balls so I could learn how to get good jumps on the ball. My Little League coach inspired me the most. He always told me I was going to make it somewhere being a center fielder.”
Cotten used what he learned early on in life to contribute to his high school teams. He led both his baseball and basketball teams to the District XI Championship as a senior at Williams Valley High School. Coming out of high school Cotten received looks from various schools including West Virginia and Old Dominion, but Rider’s Head Coach Barry Davis made the first offer to Cotten, and just a few days later he decided to sign with the Broncs. Rider also offered Cotten the opportunity to contribute to the team right away.
“I always knew that I could play ball after high school, but I didn’t know I could become the player I am today,” he admitted. “Coach Davis took a gamble with me and it paid off.”
Davis saw strong potential in Cotten. He also had the ability to fill a void in the Rider outfield.
“He was very projectable and we needed a center fielder,” Davis said. “[He’s] a solid defender with offensive tools that, when playing at a high level, can be a great attribute to our team’s success.”
Many high school prospects forego attending college and sign with MLB teams immediately after high school. While that wasn’t an option coming out of high school for Cotten, playing four years for Rider under Davis has helped develop him both on and off the baseball diamond.
“My overall game and my knowledge for the game [has improved],” Cotten said. “My speed has increased, my hitting has gotten better and the same goes for my defense and arm strength. I’ve been called the best center fielder in the MAAC for the past two years and I’m always trying to become one of the top in the nation.”
Cotten’s hard work doesn’t go unnoticed by his teammates. It is evident that the team’s success is always the number one priority to Cotten.
“Cotten is a dedicated and hardworking player who brings an attitude of determination with him wherever he goes,” junior pitcher Tyler Smith said. “As a team we can always count on him to make all the plays in the outfield and come through for us at the plate.”
Smith has been a teammate of Cotten’s for over two years now. Cotten’s will to win is a key factor in both his individual and the team’s overall success.
“Cotten separates himself with his abilities on the field as well as his attitude,” Smith said. “He hates to lose just as much as we all do and will fight hard to help us win as a team.”
With his Rider career approaching its inevitable end, Cotten is taking the appropriate steps to further his baseball career.
“I’ve gotten a lot better and I am drawing interest from several major league organizations,” he said.
Davis is confident that if Cotten is called upon, he will excel in the major leagues.
“Being a professional baseball player requires a great deal of skill and mental makeup,” Davis said. “Brandon is continuing to grow in these areas. Hopefully someone will give him a chance.”
When the curtain finally closes on his Rider career, Cotten hopes to continue doing what he does best — playing the game of baseball.