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Going south

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

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