GSA Spotlight: UNCG's Caleb Cozart

Photo credit: UNCG Athletics

The Cozart brothers – Caleb, Jacob and Sam – are not the result of a lab experiment.

It just feels that way.

“I’m Test One,” Caleb joked, “Jacob is Test Two, and Sam is Final Product.”

Caleb Cozart, a 23-year-old first baseman at UNC Greensboro, is hitting .339 with 10 doubles, a school-record 22 homers, 72 RBIs and a 1.275 OPS (21st in the nation) in 48 games. He has helped power the Spartans to first place in the Southern Conference with one weekend to play in the regular season.

The 6-5, 256-pound senior — who could be a Day Three draft pick this year — is an inspirational story all on his own because he overcame a brain tumor that was diagnosed in February of 2020. (More on that later in this report.)

Jacob Cozart, a 21-year-old defensively skilled catcher for NC State, is projected as a first-round pick this year. The 6-3, 220-pounder, who swings from the left side, is hitting .305 with 15 homers, 42 RBIs and a 1.039 OPS in 49 games.

Sam Cozart, a 17-year-old righthanded junior at Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, N.C., is a top draft prospect for 2025. The 6-7, 235-pounder — he wears a size 18 shoe — has committed to play for Texas A&M, although he will surely receive big-time interest from pro clubs in the draft.

He had been the No. 1 prospect in the nation prior to suffering a triceps injury while weightlifting in April of 2023, and he is still ranked in the top 20 among prep players. His fastball hums at 92-95.

“I just focus on my performance,” said Sam, a math whiz who is interested in majoring in mechanical engineering. “After all, I can’t draft myself.”

Caleb, Jacob and Sam are the only three children of Craig and Michelle Cozart, who met during a freshman math class at the University of Central Florida in the fall of 1992.

Michelle, who is 5-foot-11, was a volleyball standout at UCF, leading the Knights to a 55-0 conference record (TAAC) during her four years there.

Craig, who is 6-3, was a righthanded pitcher at UCF.

“The first time I saw her, she came to class after volleyball practice,” Craig said of Michelle, who also had Division I offers for her efforts in basketball and track as a 100-meter hurdler. “She was tall with curly blonde hair, and she didn’t need makeup because she was a natural beauty.”

Michelle and Craig started dating one year later, and they got married in 1997.

Craig was drafted by the Braves in the 40th round (1995) and by the Giants in the 28th round (1996).

“I signed with the Giants,” Craig said. “But two days before I was expected to report, I knew that was not the plan God had for me.

“The next step was to start coaching. Michelle and I wanted to start our life together.”

Craig started as a graduate assistant at UCF, and he moved up the ranks, becoming High Point’s head coach for 13 years.

During that time, Michelle put 210,000 miles on the family’s Toyota Sienna minivan, driving their three boys to nearly all of High Point’s weekend games.

“It’s been the most natural thing,” Craig said of how the boys were raised. “From the moment they could walk, they’ve been swinging a bat and throwing a ball. It was never forced.

“Sam was in the High Point dugout as a bat boy at the age of five, and my players always protected him, making sure he had his helmet on.

“Jacob was our (High Point) bullpen catcher at age 13 because we didn’t have another one.”

Michelle said the amount of food those three hulking boys took in was nothing short of amazing.

When all three were at home, the family — per week — would go through 10-to-12 gallons of milk, 140 yogurts and roughly 100 eggs.

The boys grew up playing Wiffle ball – often covered in mud – and, when the older two brothers are home from college, those backyard games continue.

Sam said he still remembers the first time Caleb came home from college.

“Jacob and I missed him so much,” Sam said. “Before we even had dinner or said ‘hi’ to everyone, we ran to the backyard to play Wiffle ball.”

That came as no shock to Michelle.

“Baseball has been the heartbeat of our family,” Michelle said. “We wanted to raise outstanding young men who will go out in the world and make a difference. We feel they are doing that, making their corner of the world a better place.

“But, even so, baseball has always been the centerpiece of our lives.”

Because baseball has been so important, 2024 has been a special year for the Cozart family, and that’s largely due to Caleb’s success.

While Jacob and Sam have been top prospects from the jump, Caleb – or “Test One” as he says – has had to fight for his place in the family’s pecking order.

Caleb won two state titles at Wesleyan Christian, including one in his junior season in which he teamed up with Jacob. Caleb was a starting pitcher and first baseman. Jacob was a freshman backup catcher and reliever.

From there, Caleb signed with North Carolina as a two-way player, but he blew his elbow out in the fall of his freshman year.

Following that injury, the Tar Heels used Caleb only as a pitcher. As a freshman, he made 13 appearances, including five starts, going 0-0 with a 6.48 ERA. As a sophomore, he had a 1.08 ERA in just 8 1/3 innings.

Last season, in his UNC Greensboro debut, Caleb went 0-5 with an 11.13 ERA in 12 appearances, including eight starts.

But, perhaps more importantly, he finally — for the first time since high school — got a chance to hit, batting .267 with seven homers, 21 RBIs and an .898 OPS in 45 games, including 29 starts.

That was clearly a stepping stone to what has happened this year, according to UNC Greensboro coach Cody Ellis.

“This year, he has been a ‘dude’ at the plate,” Ellis said. “He’s huge. He lets his body do the work. He’s not ultra-aggressive.

“His plate discipline has been outstanding. He had only five strikeouts in the whole month of April. He can hit with two strikes, and he’s very confident.”

Ellis said Caleb found his power this year after watching film of his high school at-bats.

In those days, Caleb had a bat wiggle … and now it’s back.

“It keeps him loose,” Ellis said. “But his power is real. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a shot (at the pros).”

Caleb’s diagnosis of a brain tumor came about by accident.

A couple of months after his elbow injury — which happened just 12 pitches into his fall season — Caleb was approached by UNC’s sports medicine department, which was conducting a study on concussions.

Caleb said he was a “broke freshman” at the time, and the opportunity to make $800 to participate in this study was an easy ask.

“Heck yeah,” Caleb said.

It was the best decision Caleb could have made, as an MRI – needed for the concussion study – led to the discovery of the brain tumor.

Thankfully, the tumor was benign, and he continued to play.

However, the tumor was producing a cyst in the vertebral column. In turn, that cyst was growing rapidly and constricting his central nervous system.

Surgery — which occurred on June 22, 2021 — has corrected that very serious issue, but it still left the family with quite a scare.

“Caleb has shown a lot of mental toughness,” Sam said of his brother. “(The ordeal) was hard on him and our family, and we became closer through all of that.”

Caleb, who graduated this past December with a degree in Communications and is now working on a Master’s in International Business, has never let his obstacles keep him from rooting for his brothers.

“Caleb is the big teddy bear of our family,” Craig Cozart said. “He does marketing work for a construction company from 8 a.m. to noon. Then he does his baseball-related work, and he takes online classes at night.

“He’s really an amazing young man.”

As mentioned, Caleb has a deep appreciation for his brothers, telling the following story about the first time he saw Sam pitch in game:

“He was 12 years old, and he stepped up on the mound throwing 87,” Caleb said. “I said, ‘Yeah, this kid is the real deal. He’s a different animal.’”

Caleb said he plans on being there with Jacob on draft day, figuring it will be a “cool brother’s memory” they can relive for the rest of their lives. The two older brothers speak at least five times per week.

But besides supporting Sam and Jacob, Caleb is enjoying his own breakout season.

“This was my last year,” Caleb said of his mindset entering 2024. “What do I have to lose? I’m just going to have fun. I’ve had (elbow surgery). I had a brain tumor. I’ve been given a second chance at life, and I’m making the most out of everything I do.”

Caleb’s journey, he said, has been as much about his mental outlook as his physical health.

“Before I blew my elbow out, I was straight baseball,” he said. “I lived and breathed it. I still do to an extent.

“But when I couldn’t get on the field, I didn’t know who I was because my entire identity was as a baseball player.

“Then I took a step back, and I realized that I’m a Christian, I’m a son, I’m a brother, I’m a boyfriend, I’m a grandson, and I’m a friend to my teammates.”

He’s a baseball player, too.

“I guess the stats I’m putting up this year are my way of reminding Jacob and Sam who is the older brother,” Caleb said with a smile.

“I’m letting them know that I’ve still got it.” is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.