Welcome to On the Davenport—the newest feature on Happy Days Cleveland—where, each week, we’ll cast a spotlight on area residents. (For my younger readers: couches were called “davenports” back in the day, hence the name of this new series.) There are lots of interesting people in Greater Cleveland, and they have compelling stories to share.
I stumbled upon my first guest by accident, as I randomly discovered J.P. Sorma and his company—Got Baseball CLE, a top-level training organization—on Instagram. I did some digging and was intrigued by what I learned. Turns out that Sorma is from my hometown—Independence—and a legitimate Major League Baseball-caliber talent. Did I mention that he’s also an engineer, model/actor and entrepreneur? His story is one of hard work, disappointment, more hard work and, ultimately, success. What’s more Cleveland than that? Without further ado, this is J.P. Sorma.
Independence, Columbus and Grandpa’s Cheesebarn
As a kid growing up in Independence, Sorma dreamed of playing in the major leagues—baseball consumed him. Fittingly, he became a star shortstop and hitter at Independence High School (2009 – 2013). When I say star, I mean it—he was scouted by the Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians and elite NCAA Division 1 programs.
Sorma received a scholarship to play baseball at The Ohio State University. “When I got that offer from Ohio State, it finally started to come together.”
Sorma loved everything about Ohio State. There was just one problem. He barely got on the field. At major Division 1 programs like Ohio State, underclassmen have to wait their turns to play. Sorma had a senior and an All-American in front of him.
“I really just wanted to play,” said Sorma. Respecting that desire, Ohio State’s coaches helped him facilitate a transfer to Division II Ashland University.
The move to Ashland—home to I-71 landmarks Grandpa’s Cheesebarn and GOASIS—was a blessing. Sorma immediately took to his fellow students, classes and teammates. “I wasn’t thinking pro anymore. I was just going with the flow. I love[d] baseball. I was just going to keep playing.”
Two steps forward, one step back, then blast off
After just five games, Sorma tore his hamstring while running to first base. The injury cost him the whole season. “I was doing really well. I was hitting about .350. I just said ‘You gotta be kidding me.’”
He came back strong the following year, his first full season playing since high school. Sorma hit the second most home runs in school history and won national batting awards. Major League Baseball (MLB) teams were interested again. Seventeen teams came to visit, including the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees.
What almost was
Following a successful campaign at Ashland, Sorma played summer baseball in Florida. He racked up more honors—hitter of the week, All-American status, summer league top prospect and number one left fielder in the country according to Perfect Game.
Two agents contacted Sorma. He signed a contract with the person he spoke to first and was assured that he’d be drafted.
Six MLB teams reached out and said they’d select Sorma in the draft. Ultimately, it never happened. The draft came and went … his name was never called.
“I was devastated,” Sorma said. “My whole life was spent working toward making it in the pros.”
How could the top prospect in an elite summer league go undrafted while 19 players ranked below him were selected?
I know from my sports management days at Ohio State that most baseball agents have around five clients. Sorma’s had 15. MLB team officials told Sorma that his age (23) also played a factor in going undrafted. You read that right. Twenty-three is considered old when it comes to the MLB draft. What a system.
The next steps
Sorma’s story stuck with me. For weeks after our interview, I wondered how I’d have reacted in his situation—seemingly achieving a dream then having it ripped away at the last minute.
General George Patton once said, “Success is how high you bounce back after hitting bottom.”
Sorma bounced back.
Sorma also began coaching in Ohio’s premier youth baseball organization—the Diamond League—making a tremendous impact on up-and-coming prospects in the area. He enjoyed coaching so much that he took vacation days from his day job to ensure he never missed a game.
Got Baseball CLE
After coaching, Sorma started Got Baseball CLE. The organization offers top-flight training to individuals looking to reach the next level in baseball. That next level could be a travel league, high school, college or the pros. Sorma teaches students of all ages, as he has a legitimate desire to help anyone with a dream “make it” in baseball.
Why Got Baseball CLE?
The company is mobile—they’ll come to you. Sorma’s given lessons from home batting cages, Crushers Stadium, Independence Fieldhouse, public fields and training facilities.
There may be no instructor in the region with better connections than Sorma. He knows agents, scouts and/or coaches at every level.
His connections include officials with organizations like the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers of MLB; The Ohio State University and LaSalle University from NCAA Division 1; Adrian College, Baldwin Wallace, Bluffton University, Heidelberg University and Allegheney College from NCAA Division 2; and Cuyahoga Community College and Lorain Community College from the junior college ranks.
Who knows, he may help your kid become a star in the major leagues.
Message to aspiring baseball players
Sorma has something to say to dreamers like himself: “Don’t give up your baseball dreams because you live in Cleveland. It doesn’t matter where you go to high school. Scouts will find you. I think you can get drafted from anywhere.”
Advice to entrepreneurs
“If you want something you have to work toward it,” Sorma said. “Nothing will be handed to you. Don’t burn bridges. Have an agreement to never have a disagreement.”
I’m going to say what we’re all thinking. Sorma is a good-looking guy. In fact, he had a good chuckle when I told him he resembles San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garropollo.
The Talent Group— Pennsylvania and Ohio’s leading full-service agency for models, actors, voices and live promotional talent—kept reaching out to Sorma, urging him to audition for the company. When he learned he could make good money for a few hours of work, Sorma agreed.
“I’m not an acting type but if it pays, why not? It’s easy money,” he said. Sorma was cast in a commercial for a technology company and featured in a Hallmark wedding card. That’s right, Sorma has his own greeting card. Not going to lie, I’m a little jealous.
Sorma spends his weekends training, giving lessons through Got Baseball CLE and hanging out with his wife, Hannah.
His favorite restaurant is Red’s Steakhouse at Pinecrest and he enjoys visiting the Flats East Bank.
For what it’s worth, he thinks the Indians will have a strong season. Neither he nor I was able to figure out a way to keep Francisco Lindor on the team long term. We tried, we really did. Sorry, friends.
If you have (or know) a kid who wants to improve at baseball, Sorma is your guy. He’s a major-league talent with unrivaled experience, credentials and connections. Simply put, he’s an invaluable resource for anyone involved with the sport. More information about Got Baseball CLE can be found here.
Side note: He may also be your guy if you are looking to start a greeting card company.😅
Got Baseball CLE is growing—Sorma is looking at properties that can be converted into a home training facility for the company. He’s been contacted by investors about the opportunity. Interested parties are encouraged to reach out.
Coming next week: happy hour at Hibachi Japanese Steakhouse (Tuesday), a look ahead to upcoming events in the area (Wednesday) and an interview with Travis Howe, chief cookie officer at Fat T’s Cookies.