Senior outfielder Chris “Bubba” Alleyne stepped to the plate on June 4, 2021, for the first at bat of Maryland’s opening game in the Greenville Regional tournament against Charlotte.
A foul ball struck Alleyne in the head, ending his day. Maryland lost that opening game and eventually fell to East Carolina in the regional final a few days later. The Terps were able to climb out of the hole they found themselves in after game one, but did it without Alleyne. Unbeknownst to him at the time, the injury would ultimately end his senior season.
The 2021 MLB Draft began later that summer. Alleyne – coming off a second team All-Big Ten selection coupled with a .306 average, eight home runs and 22 stolen bases – had a chance to be selected. But his injury cast doubt over whether or not MLB teams would view him as someone worth a selection.
Throughout the three-day event, Alleyne stayed in close contact with head coach Rob Vaughn. He watched teammates Sean Burke and Ben Cowles get drafted by the White Sox and Yankees, respectively, and Randy Bednar sign as an undrafted free agent with Seattle.
“We had kind of been in communication all day during the draft and before,” said Alleyne, “kind of letting him know that if it didn’t work out or didn’t really get what I wanted that I was definitely going to come back for a fifth year.”
The draft ended without Alleyne hearing from an organization. Vaughn immediately reached out with an offer to return to College Park but without trying to sway his decision.
“I called him as soon as the draft concluded and I said ‘Look, I know this is raw and fresh, but we want you back, we’ll take care of you,” said Vaughn. “But I don’t want to put pressure on you. If you’re ready to move on and sign a pro contract as a free agent, I’m going to be really excited for you, but I think we have a chance to do some special things and you coming back is a huge piece of that.”
Suddenly, Alleyne had a decision to make. He could either sign with any MLB team that was interested in him as a free agent or return to Maryland for a fifth, and likely final, season.
Two days after their initial conversation following the draft, Alleyne called his head coach. With time to think it over and weigh his options, he came to the decision Vaughn secretly hoped he would.
“Coach, I’m in,” Alleyne told him. “We’re going to be really good next year and I want to be a part of it.”
“We were fired up,” said Vaughn.
The decision to come back and exhaust his eligibility was led by his high expectations of this season’s team, one he says has the chance to be special, but last year’s early postseason exit had the team dreaming of more and what could have been.
“Any season that ends, especially with the injuries we had there at the end, I always feel like there’s something left on the table,” he said.
The 22-year-old also looks forward to being a mentor for the team’s younger players. Awarded the No. 3 jersey this season, given to the team’s captain who holds on to it for the duration of their college career, Alleyne looks forward to preventing younger players from making the same mistakes he once endured.
“That’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a freshman,” said Alleyne. “Hopefully I can keep the legacy going. Something I want to do is have a lasting impact on these freshmen and sophomores, just give them my experience and my knowledge from what I’ve learned being here for five years. I’ve definitely had my ups and downs here, so helping them not have as many downs was something I wanted to do.”
A 5-foot-10 three-year starter in center field, Alleyne led the Big Ten in stolen bases, led the team in runs scored and was top three on the team in hits, doubles, home runs, RBI and on-base percentage. Defensively, he finished 2021 without committing an error and has just two to his name over four years in 209 chances.
Again, he figures to be a fixture in Maryland’s leadoff spot and a leader in the outfield.
“Defensively, I don’t know if there’s a better center fielder in college baseball,” Vaughn said. “He’s not afraid to go Superman full extension dives, he’s fearless out there. He’s an elite level defender.”
Continuing to clamor over his centerfielder, Vaugn cited his desire to compete, will to win and extensive experience. The end to the 2021 season was a bitter one for every player, but maybe none more so than Alleyne.
“We have unfinished business,” said Alleyne. “It was a pretty easy decision for me to come back and finish this thing off right.”