Columbia pitcher James Vaughn is considering his future in baseball


As Harlem native James Vaughn spends his final days on the campus of Columbia University, he reflects on his two years as a member of the baseball team. He attended the recent graduation ceremony and will take his last two courses this summer. The training continues as Vaughn, a thrower, has one year of eligibility remaining and hopes to join a Division I team, allowing him to continue playing the sport he loves while also working on a master’s degree.

“I love everything about baseball,” he said. This includes playing, watching and even reading them. “I really like the process of working on it. Be very detailed about it. I like how satisfying it is to succeed in baseball because it is so hard to succeed. … I don’t feel like I’ve reached my own skills and potential yet. That is something that really drives me.”

Vaughn came to Columbia after spending a year and a half at Duke University and a semester at Monroe College. While his family moved to Atlanta a few years ago, his visit to Columbia made him feel more rooted and genuinely satisfied with the student-athlete experience, despite the baseball team being predominantly white. He praises the way the Lions coaches recruit people who play well together and enjoy being around each other. He notes that this year’s team, which went 26-18, had a special bond.

“It’s very clear that baseball is very white,” Vaughn said, noting that there are fewer than 10 black baseball players in the entire Ivy League. “(Baseball) is not a space that is really in a rush to move from the Major League level to Little League.”

While he wishes more efforts were made to increase diversity, his love for the sport shines through. Vaughn’s baseball journey began when his father signed him up for the Harlem Little League when he was about four years old. “I was a rambunctious child and it was a sport that could tire me out. He played when he was younger,” he said. “I’ve loved baseball ever since.”

He attended collegiate school from kindergarten through high school and played on the varsity baseball team. Vaughn, an anthropology major at Columbia, plans to study education in graduate school and hopes to teach afterward.

“Start in the classroom and maybe move into something administrative, government or nonprofit in education,” Vaughn said.