Georgia Bulldogs contemplate life without Charlie Condon

Star slugger says UGA baseball ‘is going to be dangerous the next couple of years’
Georgia third baseman Charlie Condon jogs around the bases after hitting a solo home run during the ninth inning against N.C. State in Game 3 of the NCAA Super Regional at Foley Field, Monday, June 10, 2024, in Athens, Ga. Georgia lost 8-5. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Georgia third baseman Charlie Condon jogs around the bases after hitting a solo home run during the ninth inning against N.C. State in Game 3 of the NCAA Super Regional at Foley Field, Monday, June 10, 2024, in Athens, Ga. Georgia lost 8-5. (Jason Getz / AJC)

ATHENS — The young reporter who asked the question didn’t mean to offend anyone, but Georgia coach Wes Johnson certainly was, or at least mildly aggrieved.

Johnson was asked what the Wolfpack did to “neutralize” the Bulldogs’ star slugger Charlie Condon on the way to winning the NCAA Athens Super Regional. The nation’s leader in batting average and home runs was 2-for-11 in the three-game series, which No. 10 N.C. State clinched with an 8-5 victory over No. 7 Georgia on Monday night.

“I disagree with you; I’m sorry,” Johnson snapped. “(Condon) hit some balls 112 miles an hour and got out. I don’t think they – that’s just called luck. … I didn’t think they neutralized him. When you’re hitting balls over 100 miles an hour, you’re getting off great swings.

“This game is hard, and it’s really, really hard to do that. I think what happens is, people get spoiled by this young man right here. Every time he comes up you think he’s going to hit a home run. If he hits a ball 112 and lines out, he’s had a bad day? There’s a handful of people on this planet that can do that. That’s my take.”

That was the take of N.C. State coach Elliott Avent, too.

“You don’t minimize Charlie Condon,” the Wolfpack’s 28-year coach said. “He’s such a great player. … The way he goes about the game, he goes about his business. He’s a professional, a pro. So, I’ll tell you, we didn’t minimize him at all. We walked him intentionally one time, and we pitched way away from him a lot, too, and still found a way to smoked some balls. That’s a great player right there.”

Added N.C. State pitcher Logan Whitaker: “The dude’s batting .440 going into this series with over 30 home runs. He’s the truth, and we came in knowing that.”

About this, the Wolfpack’s Alex Makarewicz also can attest. For proof, the third baseman could show you the bruise on his glove hand, which snagged Condon’s 112.9 mph line drive in Sunday’s game, an 11-2 Georgia win. On Monday, left fielder Luke Nixon was somehow able to grab Condon’s 109.4 mph liner at his shoe tops for what ended as only another noisy out.

It was one of those types of weekends for Condon, and for N.C. State, which was able to advance to the College World Series based on a combination of good plays and good fortune.

And, so, the Charlie Condon era at Georgia is over, punctuated by an opposite-field home run in what might have been his final plate appearance as a Bulldog. A third-year sophomore from Marietta, the 6-foot-6, 215-pound slugger is expected to become the No. 1 pick of the MLB draft next month.

Now, the Bulldogs must prepare for life without college baseball’s best player. They went 43-17 with him, an astounding accomplishment considering it was the coach’s first season, as it also was for a number of transfers and freshmen.

Don’t bother bringing up finding “Another Condon.”

“You won’t ever find another Charlie Condon, at least in my time, in my coaching career,” said Johnson, who just wrapped up his first season as Georgia’s head coach. “There will be another one to come along probably after I’m dead and gone. You’re extremely lucky if you ever get to coach a Charlie Condon. To go out and say you’re going to find another one of him is crazy.”

Georgia will do its best without him, and there are areas to shore up. Though the Bulldogs’ roster was one of many first-year players, many of them were upperclassman transfers from other programs that will be moving on. And some of those with eligibility remaining will have draft decisions to make, such as junior second baseman Slate Alford, a first-year transfer from Mississippi State, and junior pitcher Chandler Marsh.

In the age of the transfer portal, there might not be a college sport with more fluctuation in rosters than baseball. That can work for a program or against it.

As was exposed throughout the season, Georgia needs more pitching and more left-handers, in particular, both hitting and pitching.

“Next year, depending on what you have, maybe you do it a little more with speed,” Johnson said. “Maybe you do it a little more with pitching. I think this year our pitchers grew phenomenally from where we started Day 1.”

At least 20 players on Georgia’s roster will be out of college eligibility. A handful of underclassmen might seek more action at another school.

Several other players are key pieces around which Johnson hopes to rebuild. Sophomore pitcher Leighton Finley and freshman outfielder Tre Phelps are two such pieces. Finley, 6-foot-5, 235-pound right-hander, went 6-1 with a .414 ERA. Phelps hit .352 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs while playing in 42 of 60 games as a designated hitter and outfielder.

Condon, for one, is a big believer in Phelps. The two of them share the same hitting coach and have known each other for several years.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this program is going in the right direction and making big steps,” Condon said. “Tre’s going to be a huge, huge part of that. I’m so proud of that guy and can’t wait to see where his career goes. He’s going to be a big, big piece of this program going forward.”

Though he never unequivocally said Monday he would be turning pro in the coming weeks, the writing is on the wall for Condon. Baseball America, ESPN have Condon rated as the No. 1 prospect in the July 13 draft. and has him rated No. 2. The No. 1 pick last year received a signing bonus of more than $9 million and that position is expected to command $10 million this year.

Condon also a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award -- which basically is the Heisman Trophy for college baseball – as well as the Dick Howser Trophy, which tends to go to the same person. He’ll leave UGA as the school leader in career home runs (62) and homers in a single season (37 this year). He hit .433 this season, which led the nation is fifth-best all time in Georgia annals. Condon also set UGA marks for slugging (1.009) and total bases (233). He did this while rarely being pitched to.” He walked 57 times and was hit by pitches 12 others.

Condon wasn’t ready to talk about much beyond the final game he’d just experienced Monday. He went 1-for-4 in the game and 2-for-11 with one home run in the three-game Super Regional.

“It’s a melting pot of emotions right now,” said Condon, who played third base, first base and all three outfield positions while playing nearly every inning of all 60 games this season. “I’m proud of this group and proud of what we were able to accomplish. I’m really thankful to have been a part of it. It’s been a long ride since I got here.

“I’m just incredibly thankful for this university and this program, my coaches and teammates, everyone who put their time and resources into my development and promoting me the best that they could. I wouldn’t be close to who I am without that.”

The question now is what the Bulldogs will be without Condon. For what it’s worth, No. 24 thinks they’ll be all right.

“I’ve been seeing bits and pieces of it throughout the year,” Condon said. “This program has made a huge leap in the right direction. I know for a fact that, if this is my last year here, it’s in great hands. There’s no doubt in my mind that this program is going in the right direction and making big steps.

“I’m always going to be around supporting this program, regardless of whether I’m a Bulldog next year or not. I know this program is going to be dangerous the next couple of years.”