Senior Ryan Gosney said he still expects other schools may chuckle when they see his baseball team, the Wake County Home School Warriors, on the schedule. They might not expect much of a contest.
But this season, the team is getting the last laugh, proving that a nontraditional baseball team can be a force on the field.
The program has continued its success from past seasons – which includes sending a player to the Boston Red Sox – by taking down even more large public schools than before.
Through 17 games this year, the Warriors are 12-5. It has wins against 4A teams Jordan, Wakefield and Broughton and 3A team Cedar Ridge. It’s gone 4-2 in two big area tournaments – the Bobby Murray and Hilltop Invitational.
“We buy into the team concept of nobody’s playing bigger than their role on the team,” Gosney said. “We just do that better than most teams as far as playing together.”
The home-school program, which started in 2000, now draws players from Cary, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Raleigh and Creedmoor and has grown in size and stature in recent years. Word-of-mouth has led to the growth, coach Warren Harvey said.
The Warriors’ most significant moment locally came in 2012 when they won the Bobby Murray Invitational by knocking off three 4A teams in a row for the title, including powerhouse Fuquay-Varina.
Also in 2012, Patrick Goetze became the first player in program history to be selected in the Major League Baseball Draft when the Boston Red Sox took him in the 36th round.
Harvey got involved with the team seven years ago when his oldest son was seeking home-school athletic opportunities. He said his team’s sustained success has made it easier to schedule area schools each year, as public and private schools seek home games against good competition.
The Warriors also offer junior varsity and middle school teams. Many of this year’s players have been in the program for years.
Home schooling in Wake County shows no signs of slowing down. It grew from 7,600 students in the 2011-12 academic year to 9,559 last year, according to the state’s Division of Non-Public Education.
“The growth in home schooling has helped,” Harvey said. “Obviously I think there’s a larger home-school community in Wake County in particular. In that sense, you can almost look at it as our pool of students has grown.”
When parents are deciding whether to home-school their children, they may wonder whether athletic options are available to them outside the traditional school setting, Harvey said.
“We’ve tried to develop a program that is an athletic option at the highest level without compromising eligibility or anything of that sort,” he said.
A typical day
Senior Andrew Harvey, coach Harvey’s son, said a typical day for a WCHS player is similar to a college student who has scheduled classes close together. Home-schoolers take different classes on different days, starting around 9 a.m. and going for about five hours with assigned homework.
Some of the players take classes together at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary or Ambassador Presbyterian Church in Apex, where Warren Harvey is the pastor.
“Almost all of my classes are taught by actual professors, but just with a bunch of other home-schoolers,” Andrew Harvey said. “We’ll meet at a church or someone’s house.”
After school is done, practices run from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at South Park in Fuquay-Varina, though those are more infrequent once the season gets rolling. The rare home game – for a team that doesn’t have a home to call its own – is at historic Fleming Stadium in Wilson.
The traveling contingent of supporters is limited to parents, siblings and girlfriends. There isn’t a team bus, and everyone arrives separately. But the players are accustomed to the informal nature.
By competing at a high level and experiencing the team camaraderie, Andrew Harvey said he doesn’t feel like he is missing out by not playing for a traditional high school. He hasn’t heard that sentiment expressed by his teammates, either.
“I’ve kind of grown up around it,” Andrew Harvey said. “I haven’t really known another team at a high school level.”
Gosney said it helps that many of the players share similar backgrounds and like-minded beliefs. Many parents home-school their children to offer them a faith-based education. In North Carolina, 62 percent of home schools identify themselves as religious, according to the state.
While team members and their coach are outspoken about their faith, the team isn’t limited to Christians, Warren Harvey said.
“We want to be a Christ-centered environment for kids to play baseball at the highest level possible,” he said. “We’re unabashedly Christian in our approach. And my approach as a coach is baseball is a great format to teach young men character and life skills, as well as how to enjoy a game.”
In addition to competing with traditional public and private schools, the Warriors have won the N.C. Home Educators Athletic Conference title in back-to-back years, including four of the last five years.
The team’s biggest goal, however, is the weeklong Homeschool World Series Association held in Auburndale, Fla. The Warriors have placed in the top five of the tournament four times, taking runner-up in 2013 and 2012.
“We get the toughest combination of games beforehand to get us ready to play (at the HWSA) and be at our highest level,” Gosney said.
Though they have no more scheduled games against area 4A public schools, the team knows it has turned some heads in the Triangle.
“I’m not sure what other teams think of us,” Andrew Harvey said. “But if I were on another team I would take us seriously.”