At just 11-years-old, softball prodigy Alexia Carrasquillo has announced that she will attend the University of Florida and, in so doing, has become the youngest person to verbally commit to an NCAA program in any sport, ever. The announcement was made just one day before her 12th birthday and in the wake of years of outrageous dominance on the diamond. Last season, Carrasquillo won Premier Girls Fastpich National Championship, raked in 120 RBIs, hit 12 home runs, and batted .680.
Though Carrasquillo currently plays softball in Woodside, Georgia, she grew up in Florida, and like many young Florida athletes, she’s long dreamed of suiting up in the iconic orange and white to take the field as a Gator. Still, though her success is inspirational, not everyone is supportive of her choice. After her verbal commitment, the NCAA immediately implemented new recruiting rules. Colleges will no longer be able to accept commitments from middle schoolers.
One can imagine why Florida chose to aggressively pursue Carrasquillo. The school has a massive athletics program that was able to generate $140 million in revenue during the 2015-16 season. Carrasquillo seems to promise future softball dominance. For Carrasquillo, there is doubtless some relief. She won’t have to worry about college applications. That said, the decision was likely made under at least light duress. According to The Tampa Bay Times, softball programs have been leaning hard on younger and younger athletes in an attempt to secure talent.
“They’re so young they don’t even count as prospective athletes yet under NCAA rules. I can literally call them up, run into them and talk to them,” Western Carolina coach Jim Clift told the Times. “And what’s crazy is they’re all committed. It’s so competitive at the major college level and they all have the same resources.”
Still, it makes sense that Carrasquillo would be eager to commit to UF. Just this week, the Florida Gators softball team won their fourth straight southeastern regular season championship, and they’re only the second team in history to ever do that. In Carrasquillo’s case, it remains to be seen how well the decision will fare for her. A lot of high school athletes who are hyped going into the college or a professional league often struggle to compete at a higher level. Committing early means committing to the UF method as well, and different schools train athletes differently. Such a young player might have preemptively committed to a school that won’t allow her game to develop the way that she may want it to in four years.