Loran Smith’s Sports Column: Charlie Condon - Americus Times-Recorder (2024)

Published 12:18 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2024

By Ken Gustafson

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A few weeks ago in Phoenix, the Arizona Diamondbacks were

hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers which brought about an opportunity to

see the Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani play at Chase Field.

The Diamondbacks chose to pitch to him. In four trips to the plate,

Ohtani didn’t hit a ball out of the infield which was overtly disappointing. As

the guest of the Diamondbacks, I wanted the home team to win, but seeing

Ohtani blast a pitch in the outfield bleachers would have been a signature

moment.

Upon leaving, I suddenly thought of Charlie Condon, Georgia’s

remarkable slugger, nonpareil. The expectations for this Marietta native

flashed through my mind’s eye. When he comes to bat at Foley Field there

are often boos, not for the Ozark Ike of Bulldog baseball, but for the

pitchers who intentionally walk Condon.

For those who pitch to the record setting Bulldog star, there is a sigh

of disappointment from the home team aficionados if No. 24 does not

thunder a pitch into the 30-foot pine trees just beyond

the left field fence.

When he goes the distance, it is a picturesque and memorable

moment. He swings through the ball fluidly and effortlessly—like Tiger

Woods’ tee shots in his early years on the PGA tour. Cannonade Charlie’s

home runs have the thrust of a rocket lifting up and away at Cape

Canaveral.

Charlie has played at third and first base and all three outfield

positions at Georgia but thinks a corner outfield position would be best for

him in professional ball. He already knows what it is like to hit in a Big

League Park. While playing in the Cape Cod League last summer, he got

to take a few swings in Fenway Park. He powered a homer to deep left

center in the direction of the Citgo sign, which would have easily cleared

the Green Monster.

In a conversation with Alan Butts, a Braves scout, he lamented that

the Braves don’t have first pick in the draft this year. As an outfielder, Butts

says that Condon has a “plus” arm which means “better than average.”

When he talks to other scouts, there is a consensus that Condon (6-6, 216)

has remarkable “athleticism” for his size. “He really has excellent

movement,” says Butts. “His power and athleticism are remarkable. He

has long arms like Dale Murphy and Kris Bryant, now with the Rockies. He

gets great leverage with those long arms. (Like Condon, Bryant sees

action at third base and the outfield.)

Condon’s long arms and athleticism enable him to generate the

power that makes him a slugger who turns heads. His 36 homeruns thus

far this season is confirmation that when he makes solid contact, the ball is

on the way to Foley’s thicket of pines.

Growing up, Charlie saw his body develop a little slower than with

other kids in his grade, but he had a sense of maturity about that, never

carping and complaining and seeing any urgency to eat more steaks and

drink more milkshakes. He was compatible with the work ethic and

discipline. He could spend hours in a batting cage, bent on improving his

swing.

No college scouts were beating down his door. He allows this

assessment. “I was undersized and underdeveloped and wasn’t ready to

be looked at as a college prospect.”

His insights are sagacious and poignant. As his body frame matured,

he realized that if nature blessed him physically, there was more than

having a big frame: “I had to learn how to use size to my advantage.

“I just had to be patient and try to learn which is what was very helpful

for me, gaining a competitive edge playing against kids who were bigger,

stronger and better at the game than I was.”

He also played football and loved the sport and still misses football.

“I think the thing I missed most,” he smiles, “is being with my teammates.

You have to work together in all sports, but it is especially true with football.

I get the biggest kick out of seeing the nation’s best team play between the

hedges. I love football and I miss the game a lot.”

The familial influence is not lost on Charlie. His older brother Matt

was his best friend and he got the greatest support from his sister, Sarah.

His parents Jim and Rebecca were always encouraging AND challenging

him, not doting on him to be a superstar. “They influenced me to try to be

a good human being first—having good habits and treating other people

right. The priority in my life is to be a good teammate first and to enjoy my

teammates.

He circles back to underscore the importance of relationships. “I want

to be a guy who people enjoy playing with. That is not going to happen if

you are a nightmare to play with on the field. I want to be that over all that

other stuff.” (That means headlines, accolades and individual recognition.)

Coming to Athens became a family tradition. They first made trips to

the Hedges when his first cousin, Owen Condon, played tackle for the 2021

National Champion Dawgs.

You find a heavy dose of sentimentality with Charlie who experiences

an emotional high when he walks down the campus to class at the Terry

College of Business. “It gives me the greatest feeling to have that

experience,” he smiles and then adds, “Yes sir, I will a hundred percent

finish my degree at some time or other. That is very important to me and

my family.”

With COVID turning everything upside down, Charlie initially

considered a small school opportunity but kept holding out hope that he

could find a way to compete at the highest level—he felt deep inside that

he could be successful—when former Bulldog coach, Scott Stricklin,

offered him a preferred walk-on opportunity. His reaction to that even today

is an emphatically reverent, “Awesome.” You can add a fistful of

exclamation points to that comment.

Jim Condon watched his son in his formative years and saw that he

was a good athlete and was eager to learn from his coaches along the way.

“He took his lumps, early on,” the father says. “He gained confidence from

preparation—Charlie was always working overtime to be successful in

sports. That is why we had told him all along that too much attention and

too much publicity can trip you up.”

Athletic staff members smile after conversations with Charlie and his

parents. If you didn’t know better, you might think you were talking to Brock

Bowers and his family. Brock never wanted any attention, deflecting praise

at every opportunity to his teammates.

Just as it was with Bowers, however, if your performance warrants

attention, you can’t stem the tide which happened to the Bowers family and

is now taking place with the Condon clan.

It is refreshing to see college kids who become multi-millionaires by

age 25 as it is likely to be the case for both Bowers and Charlie Condon. In

the case of these two prodigies, there is good news in that they can handle

the attention—just as they can perform with the best on the playing fields.

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Loran Smith’s Sports Column: Charlie Condon - Americus Times-Recorder (2024)
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