Reversing the Growing Gap in Youth Baseball Opportunities

Jason Lisk published an article on thebiglead.com that highlights many of the socioeconomic issues present in the world of youth and professional baseball that the First Base Foundation is committed to fixing.

This is Part II of a two-part series on MLB and Youth Baseball. Part I, which can be found here, focused on general challenges for MLB when working with youth baseball, from sports specialization trends to coaching challenges at the youth level, to cooperating with various organizations to promote the game. Today focuses on the specific challenge of improving the game’s diversity and increasing participation numbers in the African-American community, in a “travel-ball culture” where money is increasingly spent to train young athletes.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 2.42.29 PMLorenzo Cain and Andrew McCutchen are two of the biggest stars in MLB in 2015. Both centerfielders started in the outfield in this year’s All-Star Game. As fate would have it, they also were born less than 6 months apart, and grew up in Florida less than 250 miles from each other: Cain in Madison County near Tallahassee, and McCutchen in Fort Meade in the central part of the state. Their paths to major league stardom are vastly different, yet possess some of the same obstacles.

Lorenzo Cain’s path is virtually unheard of within baseball. As detailed by Andy McCullouch of the Kansas City Star last year, he never played organized baseball before his sophomore year in high school. His father had passed away when he was 4 years old, his mother worked two jobs, and Cain did not play team sports as a child because he did not want to add to her burden. His favorite sport was basketball, but when he got cut from the team his sophomore year, he went out for baseball. Madison County didn’t have enough players to fill out a junior varsity roster, and he got his opportunity almost by default. The first day, he showed up in jeans and borrowed an old glove (which happened to be left-handed).

McCutchen, meanwhile, did play youth baseball at an early age, starting with tee-ball. Writing in the Player’s Tribune, McCutchen said “I was crushing balls off the walls and running around the bases like crazy. I was good.” McCutchen’s issue wasn’t early exposure to the game, like Cain, but rather the challenges of a family that could not afford the expensive competitive teams outside his small town, on a travel circuit that so often leads to recognition and opportunities. For McCutchen, it was coaches and mentors who paid for many of the expenses associated with high-level baseball, bridging the gap of what his parents could afford, that allowed him to showcase his talents.

Not every player is going to have the freakish skill to overcome an eight-year playing deficit, like Cain; Not every player that flashes some talent, but cannot afford all of the extensive expenses of tournament baseball, like McCutchen, is going to find others that help along that path. If MLB’s increased focus on youth baseball has any impact, players who may not have gotten the full opportunity in the past will join them in the future.

Reversing Decades-Long Decline in African American Participation in the Sport

On Opening Day of this year, African Americans made up 7.8% of players on major league rosters. In 1986, that number was 19%. The sport has seen an influx of international players over the last two decades, but the percentage of domestic-born Caucasian players has not shown similar declines.

The reasons for this decline are multi-faceted. Comedian Chris Rock gave his humorous take on the issues with the sport and why it no longer resonates in the black community, in an HBO video. “It’s the game, it’s old-fashioned and stuck in the past,” Rock opined, “it has an old-fashioned code, too.” When it comes to the unwritten rules, where players often take offense at individuality, Rock said of the code: “Play baseball the right way … the white way.”

While Rock was more dismissive of economic–rather than cultural–issues driving the decline, those are likely just as strong of factors. According to Tony Reagins, former Angels GM who was appointed as MLB’s senior vice president for youth programs in April, “in our research, what we’ve found is that the financial barrier is an important barrier to participating.”

The Financial Costs are a Big Factor in Youth Baseball

kailen1Those financial barriers can be large for all families around the country, and have a disparate impact on the African-American community. The early barriers can include equipment costs. For soccer or basketball at the early ages, the financial outlay may include just the cost of a ball and shoes (and a relatively inexpensive pair of shin guards for soccer). For baseball or softball, those costs can include a bat, a fielding glove, multiple pairs of pants, batting gloves, shoes, and a batting helmet, and a bag to manage and transport all of it.

Once in the sport, the financial barriers for continuing in competition can escalate even more. This is particularly true as kids get to the 12 and 13 year old age groups, when baseball begins to see the participation decline as discussed in Part I. Local community-based leagues may have a relatively affordable entry fee.

Once tournament baseball becomes a bigger part of the equation, fees escalate. Tournament fees for a team can be in the $300 to $500 range, practice time might need to be reserved and rented, and uniforms become a separate fee. As Andrew McCutchen stated, “It’s about the $100-a-night motel room and the $30 gas money and the $300 tournament fee. There’s a huge financing gap to get a child to that next level where they might be seen.” You can add in other hidden fees like tournaments that, after already charging the large team tournament fee that parents are subsidizing, charge each family member a gate fee each day (and spread games over multiple days). And that doesn’t even get into the potential cost of private lessons or tutoring in this age of specialization.

Part of the pain of Jackie Robinson West being stripped of the Little League American title last year is that it went against many of these trends. Other organizations outside of Little League (which is one of many organizations around the country) don’t have the various boundary rules; teams are put together privately and players change teams frequently. It was a public face of opportunity to showcase the Little League revival in Chicago. As Andrew McCutchen said:

The kids from Jackie Robinson West had a really bad day yesterday. But you know what? Somebody probably watched their Little League World Series run and saw one of them make a smart play in the field or hit a perfect line drive up the gap. That kid might not have been the best player on the team. But somebody saw something in him, and they’re going to reach out and say, “Hey, I want you on my team.” They’re going to become like a second father or mother to that kid. Hopefully that kid has the courage to travel away from his family and the patience to become a great baseball player.

The NCAA’s Baseball Scholarship Limit Affects Diversity in the Sport

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 2.45.02 PMThe NCAA’s limits on college baseball scholarships is another big financial barrier for the sport. As detailed in this ESPNW piece, while Title IX often gets blamed, baseball doesn’t get any fewer partial scholarships than women’s softball (11.7 versus 12). The NCAA sets those limits and has decided to limit baseball and softball in favor of “revenue” sports of basketball and football. Thus, college baseball teams are left to divide 11.7 partial scholarships as they see fit among up to 27 players.

“One of the reasons why we struggle in some demographics, the best athletes are going where the college scholarships are,” Chris Marinak, MLB senior vice president, league economics and strategy, said. “The college scholarships are not in baseball, they are in football, basketball, some of the other sports. One of the reasons why we are looking to do these programs, because it hopefully provides an incentive for kids to play baseball and develop their skills, that allows us to compete with some of the other college sports that kids look to in terms of playing while in high school as a way to get a college scholarship.

“The biggest issue is the college scholarship structure itself,” Missouri head baseball coach Tim Jamieson said. “It’s not good for anybody that plays any other sports. If you do the math, and if you are not from a strong financial background, it’s hard to make that work.”

Speaking in the New York Times, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia set forth how those issues affect personal decisions. “If I hadn’t been a first-round pick, I would have gone to college to play football, because I had a full ride. All that factors in. How are you going to tell a kid from the hood that I can give you a 15-percent scholarship to go play baseball, or a full ride to go to Florida State for football? What are you going to pick? It’s not even an option.”

Super agent Scott Boras has even come out saying that MLB should consider subsidizing college scholarships if the NCAA is going to maintain the scholarship levels. Speaking to USA Today, Boras said, “I don’t think anything will change until Major League Baseball and the NCAA wakes up. Until we get this remedied, the Jackie Robinsons of the world aren’t going to come to college to play baseball.”

MLB is Making an Investment for Its Future By Trying to Reverse These Economic Trends

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 2.50.43 PMIn the face of these issues, MLB under Rob Manfred has made a renewed commitment to promoting youth baseball, and to specifically investing in programs that open up the sport to all kids and foster diversity. This includes sizable investments in the RBI program and the Urban Youth Academies. MLB and the MLBPA also announced a joint $30 million initiative at the All-Star Game to improve “the caliber, effectiveness and availability of amateur baseball and softball programs across the United States and Canada.” According to the release, funding will go to “training and recognition programs for coaches, grants for youth baseball academies, MLB’s new ‘Play Ball’ initiative and programs for players and former players who desire to work with youth baseball programs in their communities.”

The various programs are not charity. They are a recognition by the top levels of baseball that the investment is necessary for the future health of the sport, and to compete in the current sports climate. In the free market specialization climate where families are spending money for travel and exposure and training, MLB is trying to keep it as a sport open to all. Also, because the research shows that early exposure to the sport is a key indicator for remaining a fan, MLB knows that the twin goals of maintaining the overall popularity and allowing for opportunities to the best future players to help diversity are tied together.

“We look at development as a funnel. You have to get into the funnel if you are going to have a chance to get out of the funnel,” Marinak said. “The end of the funnel is the major league player. You can’t be a major league player unless you’ve played baseball at some point.”

“We think that getting people into the funnel at a young age helps us in both areas. Helps people get into the game and drive them toward fanhood, but also helps them get into the funnel, with a chance to be a major league player.”

That requires financial investment to make sure more kids enter the sport, and then can continue to receive that support once the financial commitments increase.

“We need to set up structures at baseball that help support that opportunity,” Marinak said. “If you are a wealthy family and you can afford to pay for a tutor, then you can do that. But if you are not in a wealthy area, or you are in an urban area where access is more difficult, there are alternatives for you that are cheaper, that provide more access. So that’s kind of where we are focusing.”

The RBI Program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) has been around since 1989, but has seen a renewed focus in recent years. In 2009, the program expanded to younger ages, and has grown by nearly 80%. It now serves approximately 230,000 children. “If a kid cannot afford to pay our entry fee, which is not very costly, we let that young person play at no cost,” Reagins said. “The idea of RBI is to go into underserved areas and have young people playing baseball, and we are in over 200 cities around the country.”

RBI is the broader-based program to provide exposure and opportunity to the sport. The Urban Youth Academies are a place where children in urban communities can get both initial exposure, and more detailed instruction as they age. In 2006, MLB began the first Urban Youth Academy in Compton, California. A new one opened in Philadelphia this year, and there are now five academies (also in Houston, New Orleans, and Cincinnati).

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 2.52.54 PMThe Urban Youth Academies serve more than 7,000 youth annually in those communities. The financial commitment from MLB is greater per child, with physical facilities within those communities, and training typical proved by former players at the major league, minor league, or college level, according to Reagins. Children can start as young as 5 or 6, and continue up through high school ages. There is no entry level tryout or requirement to get instruction. “There is no cost associated to coming to the Academy and being a member,” Reagins said. “All you need is a desire to want to play baseball. All the equipment is provided, all the tutoring or instruction is provided, it’s really a young person’s desire to come and want to play baseball.”

Marinak would not discuss the specific costs for MLB in running the two programs, but to illustrate the level of commitment that MLB is making to the Urban Youth Academies in trying to balance the scales and provide training for kids to compete with competitive travel programs, he said that MLB makes the same central contribution to the RBI program (for 230,000 kids) as for the Urban Youth Academies (with 7,000 kids).

Does baseball have specific plans to expand the program? In June, President Obama announced that San Francisco would be getting an Urban Youth Academy in the future. According to Reagins, other MLB clubs are becoming more engaged and wanting an Academy in their cities, and they are looking at 2-3 more in the next few years.

Former Players and Coaches Can Be a Valuable Resource

While the expansion of Urban Youth Academies has been a focused goal, the vast majority of children will not live within a short distance of one. There are 23 MLB markets that do not currently have one, not to mention the myriad other cities around the country where kids play baseball at the youth level. Reagins was asked if there were other initiatives that could subsidize coaches and former players who wanted to provide opportunities for high quality instruction to kids that might be able to otherwise afford it.

Citing the recent $30 million agreement with the player’s association, Reagins stated “camps and former players around the country that are doing things the right way, and are engaged with young people around the country, I think there’s an opportunity to help those programs grow and provide assistance where needed.”

“Each person, former player that has a camp, we’ll go through an evaluation process to vet the situation and make sure things are being conducted a certain way, and are being done for the right reasons,” Reagins said, “We’ll take a strong look at that, and if they are, and fit the criteria, we definitely would like to assist and be part of the growth in whatever region that is.”

MLB just announced that deal last month, and the protocols and procedures are still being developed, but former players and coaches who embrace the MLB goals should keep an eye out for further public announcements in this regard in the near future. As Chris Marinak stated, MLB recognizes that its former players are a valuable and unique resource in promoting the game.

“Something that’s unique about baseball is that you probably have more former professional players, given that we have such a big minor league system. We have a huge pool of former professional players, probably moreso than any other sport domestically, so we should capitalize on that. We should create opportunities for former professional players to give back to their communities and train the next generation of players. We should provide opportunities for former professionals to transition back to the community, and use baseball as a way to do that. I think that’s the type of program that we’re looking at that will provide a lot of value and reach across the country.”

Hope for the Future

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 2.53.49 PMAs USA Today noted at the start of the season, there are several encouraging signs that African American participation in the sport can rebound and return to where it was two decades ago. 65% of the African-American players were 30 years old or younger at the start of this season. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked 14 African Americans among the top 100 prospects before this year, including Byron Buxton, Addison Russell, and J.P. Crawford in the Top 10.

In this June’s MLB Draft, 9 of 36 first rounders were African-American, which represented the highest percentage in the first round since 1992. Dillon Tate, the fourth overall pick of the Texas Rangers, is an alumnus of the Compton Urban Youth Academy, the highest pick ever to come out of that program. His selection is important for several reasons, including that the pitching position has been particularly underrepresented as the overall numbers have declined.

Dominic Smith and J.P. Crawford, also in Law’s Top 100, were Urban Youth Academy alums as well, and several others have started to trickle into the majors (Khris Davis, Anthony Gose, Aaron Hicks, Efren Navarro, Jon Singleton, and Vincent Velasquez). Over the last 4 MLB Drafts, 46 players who have come through an Urban Youth Academy have been selected.

I asked Reagins where he hoped to be with the programs.

“In Year One, hopefully, we can start to flatten out the numbers as far as a decline, if we can do that, then we are making progress. And then just gradual improvement, we know that this is not going to happen over night. We are committed to it financially. We are definitely committed to it emotionally and spiritually.”

2015 California Warriors Program Stands Out

Gold in DugoutTraditionally, summer baseball teams can feel less cohesive than regular high school and college programs. Players rotate in and out of games more often, tournament schedules can be unpredictable, players schedule showcases outside of the team schedule – it is generally a more scattered experience. The California Warriors, however, provide a different environment for it’s student athletes.

The California Warriors teams are filled with collegiate-bound student athletes who individually need to be seen by college coaches, but each of the players on the White, Blue, and Gold teams are invested not only in their personal development, but in contributing to the team dynamic. The Gold team is made up of graduated seniors and younger players on the fast track to college recruitment, players who typically show up to every game even when they don’t expect to play. Graduated senior Colby Morris, a pitcher on the Gold Team, has been to several games this summer just to watch — he has planned to limit his innings by throwing only once a week — since he wanted to be a part of the team atmosphere and listen to valuable coaching advice. When the Gold Team traveled to Reno for a tournament, Jack Harris, who had recently injured his leg, sat through the four-hour drive knowing he was unable to play; he simply wanted to be with the team and watch baseball for a weekend. The student athletes on the Warriors teams recognize that the coaches in the organization convey a wealth of information in the dugouts and that they can watch their peers to step up their own game as opposed to exclusively going to games where they individually are featured.

Some who have played with the Warriors in previous years who did not intend to play again this summer heard about the great environment on the field for all the Warriors teams and reached out to the organization to see if they could make their way onto a squad at the last minute. Gold team player Paul Kunst, who didn’t start the summer with the Warriors, made his way onto the team after hearing of the expertise in the dugouts and the camaraderie between the players, eventually providing a great performance in the Utah tournament.

Throughout the summer, the coaches with the White team — made up of players who haven’t seen much varsity action — have seen their players develop into better all-around athletes who are better equipped to make quick decisions during games. The Blue and Gold teams have each seen huge success in the summer and will play against their top competition of the summer in San Diego to conclude their summer seasons.

My Two Loves: Baseball and Slopestyle Skiing

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 12.57.29 PMI would say my first love in life was baseball. I’m an avid player who has been playing for as long as I can remember, and for more teams than I can remember. If finding love once wasn’t enough, I found love a second time in freestyle skiing. I am not only a catcher on the baseball diamond for the California Warriors Blue Team, but also a freestyle skier on snow. This past week, I have been in Oregon at a summer ski camp. The camp I attended is called Mt Hood Summer Ski Camp. MHSSC is a camp that draws skiers from all over the world, including Japan, Canada, Germany and even Luxembourg. Mt Hood is a glacier in Oregon that has snow year round, which is why it draws so much attention. Most of the campers are teens and young adults who all are relatively advanced in skiing. Mt, Hood Summer Ski Camp is for freestyle and race skiers to come and progress at a sport they love. During my week away I learned how to land new tricks and also learned how NOT to land. While trying a new aerial trick I landed upside-down and managed to give myself a minor concussion. If that wasn’t enough, while on this trip I also managed to fall on a rail and may have cracked one of my ribs. As you may be able to guess, my parents were thrilled to hear about this.

joe ski 2My first time on skis was when I was two years old. Ever since then skiing was a family bonding experience that I always looked forward too, much like going to baseball games with my family. Skiing, like baseball became one of my passions. I quickly surpassed my parents’ ability to ski and became interested in slopestyle. Something about watching athletes spinning and flipping themselves off massive jumps and seeing the ease in which they do it would always give me this excitement. The only comparison I can make to this rush of excitement is watching one of my favorite baseball players hitting a massive home run. Because of this feeling, I dedicated myself to trick skiing, and enrolled myself in the summer ski camp.

Although this past week in Oregon was very enjoyable, I’m happy to be back. I missed playing baseball and realized that there truly is something special about stepping on a baseball diamond that will give you a feeling that no other sport can. I can’t wait to get back out there on the diamond for the California Warriors in their upcoming games.

Written by Joe Levin, Warriors Blue Team Catcher

Playing Baseball in Cold Climates – My Year at Colby College

I just finished my first year playing collegiate baseball at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Growing up in California, I was able to play baseball outside year round. Playing collegiate baseball in Maine has been a major change. This was the longest winter on record in 40 years, and the baseball field at Colby was covered in snow from late November until mid April. This left us without a field to practice on, which caused us to get creative.

At Colby we are fortunate to have a field house on campus; this is not something that exists at all East Coast schools. There are many positives of having a field house. All of our practices happen in the field house during these snowy months. In the field house we are able to have a full infield practice with baserunners. Pitchers are able to perfect their pitches inside on portable turf mounds, and players are also able to work on their swings in the indoor batting cages. In the field house we are able to run sprints and use weights after practice to stay in shape. Mentally, we know we are practicing and getting better every day, compared to other schools on the East Coast that may not have a field house.

ConnorThe need for communication is also important in a field house. Sound carries and the noise level can be overwhelming. This means that paying attention to coaches and other players is imperative towards having a successful practice.

There are, however, some disadvantages to a field house. It is not the size of a full baseball field, which means we are only able to have a full infield and half an outfield. Height is another issue. The field house roof is only thirty feet high, so there are not a lot of opportunities for us to practice fly balls and pop ups. The low field house roof changes our approach to hitting. Our team hits a lot more linedrives and groundballs than a team that has the opportunity to practice outside. This can carry over to the season, leading our team to plays a lot of small ball. Regardless of these challenges, our team is very grateful to have a field house on campus so that we can get in much needed practices.

 The cold weather also affects our schedule. We start our season during our spring break during the last week of March in Florida. For all of us this is the first time we have seen grass since November. During this week we play ten games against other teams located in cold weather climates. After Florida we return to snowy Colby College and our familiar field house. We practice indoors to prepare for the NESCAC league games in early April in Connecticut and Massachusetts. In about mid April, we had our first home game against Thomas College, a local Maine school. Our season finished with a double header at Amherst College during the first weekend of May. Although it was a hectic season, with 31 games in six weeks, I feel like we were the best prepared indoor baseball team. My first season at Colby College was a great learning experience, and I wouldn’t change for the world.

A Summer I’ll Never Forget – By Aaron Smith

Pictures have been developed and uploaded, award winners chosen and applauded, and the fifth Costco sized bottle of detergent thrown away after cleaning the uniforms one final time. The lights have faded to black on the 2013 Warriors Collegiate Season.

After eight months of planning, designing, and coordinating, followed by a manic flurry of games in a little over two months, its safe to say I had a fair amount invested in the season. Although I was “working,” I had more fun this summer than I have had since I was a youngster attending baseball camps and running around water parks all summer long.

As I sat on the bench game after game, like a fly on the wall, I was privy to the inner-workings of the California Warriors. From the coaching strategies, to the players personal issues, from the jokes, to all the major and minor player accomplishments. Hitting the long road to Santa Barbara and Arcata, or playing at home at Marin Catholic or Evans Diamond. The stories and experiences could easily fill a book despite the short amount of time for their accumulation.

The student-athletes that make up the fierce California Warriors Collegiate team come from Oakland, Petaluma, San Francisco, Marin, the Bronx, and the Dominican Republic. They play at community colleges, high schools, and D1 through D3 programs. This crude collection of young men connected to create a beautiful harmony played out between the lines and the dirt of the baseball field. Guys who had never met before this summer ended up turning double plays fluently like they had done it for years. At the top of the first inning, catcher and pitcher introduce themselves for the first time, and by the bottom of the first they’re working with one another like a meticulously sound organism.

It was great, obviously, to meet and watch the heralded players like Manny Ramirez Jr., who hit six homeruns in less than a week. To watch pitchers like the Peterson twins and Trevin Haseltine carve up the strike zone and send opposing batters back to their respective benches shaking their heads in bewilderment. However, I also loved watching the players that didn’t come to the team with many accolades. They are what the First Base Foundation is all about. A guy like recent San Ramon Valley High School graduate Connor Stahl, who isn’t going to dazzle you with speed, but who showed up to the field for nearly every game, even when he knew he wasn’t going to pitch, to get work in with pitching coach Brian Diemer. I watched Stahl transform from a thrower to a pitcher in 2 short months. Brian Bostjancic, a sophomore at College of Marin, was another great guy who had a live arm and decent glove, but really struggled at the plate. After a ton of work with Assistant Coach Joe Slader, I then had the pleasure of watching Brian string together a 12 game hitting streak with an immense amount of confidence each time he stepped into the batters box. It then became a nearly automatic out every time a ball was hit Bostjancic’s way at shortstop.

On May 30th I had shoulder surgery on my throwing arm. It made it extremely depressing for me to see the guys out shagging fly-balls and playing long toss before each game, knowing that I couldn’t. But then the roles reversed, and the players became the coach and I became the student. Even though I knew at 30 years old, it would be no easy task… I decided to learn how to throw lefty. I would watch these young athletes switch their throwing hands and make it look natural. I; however, couldn’t hardly make it 10 feet, and boy did it look awful. But Connor and Sam Granoff, two lefties, took me under their wings and patiently worked with me. Connor and I played catch nearly every day for two weeks straight and it got better, a lot better. Then I hit a wall and couldn’t find any consistency, but Stahl and Granoff wouldn’t give up on me. Instead, their coaching got more intense, and at times I felt like if I didn’t improve they were going to cut me from the team. Now, after over a month of throwing with “Coach Stahl” I can throw it on the fly about 110 feet, and while it still is not the most natural looking throwing motion, it is well on its way.

All in all it was an amazing summer. We were the youngest and most inexperienced team in the Far West League, and yet with perseverance, hard work, and some great teamwork, we still managed to make the playoffs after finishing third out of eight teams. It was great to watch the guys struggle at times, learn, and grow through the great coaching staff and the help of one another. To start the season a group of individuals, but finish the season a team and a large group of friends, made this summer one I will not soon forget.

It’s All About the Journey – CAL Women’s Basketball Final Four

photo (10)There’s nothing better than celebrating 8 long months of hard work, grueling practices, and nail-biting games than at an extravagant Mardi Gras Parade with some of the best student athletes in the collegiate world.

As the Student Manager for the Cal Women’s Basketball Team, I had the awesome opportunity to attend the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship in New Orleans, LA. It’s where the best of the best NCAA Women’s Basketball teams compete; where you push yourself again and again until the final buzzer sounds. You can either win big, or go home.

The highlight of this journey isn’t just the games played; it’s the whole celebration of the student athletes and their extraordinary work leading up to this moment. From the second we walked into “Mardi Gras World”, a marching band filled our ears with fight songs and festive music. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the gorgeous Final Four rings on display, but we simply had to adorn ourselves with colorful boas, beads, and masks provided and join in the celebration with all the other teams!

The Final Four Salute Premiere at Mardi Gras World was a celebration to salute the Women’s Final Four student-athletes. Televised and open to the public, this theater style event also honored four local women for their work in the community. Each Final Four team also had the chance to walk down the catwalk to their seats as their school’s fight song played in the background, and each team captain gave a short inspirational speech about their season, their team’s struggles and successes, and how amazing it felt to be at the National Championship.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this dynamic and powerful Cal Women’s Basketball team. The Final Four experience was a celebratory time spent with these empowering individuals who showed that with teamwork, passion, and vision… anything is possible!

Written by Sarah Germini, Summer 2013 Intern

The Magic Behind the Diamond

944649_633436903351720_1992996239_nAs I watched the California Warriors Collegiate Team play against the Sacramento Spikes during the first game of the season, I thought to myself about what it took to reach this point. In the Front Office, three days prior to that game, we were organizing the last-minute details for the four California Warriors’ teams; finalizing their game schedules, making sure that none of the games and fields were overlapping, working on getting the players their stylish uniforms, (especially the awesome Collegiate Away camouflage jerseys), and fielding the relentless phone calls and emails filled with questions from players and parents. The Front Office of the First Base Foundation is hectic. There is always a situation that we have to deal with while trying to make the season as effortless for the players and parents as possible.  Yet somehow, through all of the loud communication and the distractions, our front office team makes everything run smoothly.

For example, we set up a text-messaging program named One Call Now. One Call Now is supposed to send out a text alert to a Warriors team to notify them of an urgent change, such as a cancelled game or the location change for a practice. This service was supposed to simplify communication between the staff and players, but when we were setting it up, it seemed to only exacerbate the situation.  While establishing this service an we “accidentally” sent out a phone message to the Collegiate Team, the Blue Team, the Gold Team, and the White Team saying, “Test. Test. Test. From the First Base Foundation”.  For the rest of the day, there wasn’t a moment when the phone wasn’t ringing off the hook, with everyone asking the same question: “Why did you just call me?”  Pretty soon, even the sound of the phone was enough to send the staff running. Every time the phone rang, everyone in the office looked for someone else to answer the phone, turning the afternoon into a constant game of “It’s your turn!”

Of all the people in the office though, Noah Jackson wins as the man with the most phone calls. He has the hookups on one of the most popular aspects this year: Customized Nike Gear.  It seems like everyone that has ever been affiliated with the Warriors or First Base Foundation wants some of this astounding attire. There are legit socks, tremendous shirts, bossy shorts, awe-inspiring hats (some of which are for sale for $25), and jaw-dropping jerseys.  The Collegiate home jerseys are clean whites that look incredibly fresh, while the away jerseys are a blue camouflage that are absolutely splendid.  Our Equipment Manager, who is in charge of keeping the teams looking good, meticulously maintains all the uniforms.  During the offseason, Noah spent approximately 70% of his time looking for the freshest gear, finding the best prices, and designing custom swag for the teams.  This is the first year that we needed to order more clothing due to high demand.

I have never worked in a situation like this before where everybody contributes and everyone’s thoughts and ideas are equally important.  I now realize that the baseball team is only part of what the First Base Foundation is about.  It is a place of ideas, innovation, cooperation, coordination, humor, tolerance and generally a positive and encouraging work environment.  Not to mention… gourmet lunches are provided!

Written by Dillon Hamer. Dillon is an intern in the 2013 Summer Internship Program.

The Art of Mastering the Scoreboard

photo (4)Looking down on Marin Catholic’s perfectly manicured field, the view from the scoring box lends a unique perspective to watch the games.I understand what it’s like to be a player on the field, as well as a fan, but scoring while watching a game is something new to me. Constantly leaning my head one way or another to see the plays, the physical constraints of the window make it a sport in and of itself to watch the game. Aside from constantly moving around to see impeded plays, the view from the box is otherwise quite good. Unlike the grandstands the box seems to be an extension of the home dugout which allows for a participatory role; among other things you can see the dugout interactions between players and hear the fantastic echo of bull pen pitches.

While being a spectator is fun and leisurely, score keeping requires a certain amount of active participation. As the score keeper you have a duty to keep track of every pitch strike or ball, outs, the inning, runs, hits and errors. Doing this correctly takes a bit of attention, one moment of distraction can lead to an umpire stopping a game to check his clicker or a befuddled coach asking for a change to the scoreboard. In other words on every pitch there is a button to be pressed to keep the scoreboard current and accurate, and if not the whole stadium knows your mistake.

Participation as the scoreboard guy allows for greater recall of the game. Often times as a spectator I find that I watch a game and cannot remember much of went on, this is not the case with the games I score keep. Because of the frequency of participation it is easy to pay very close attention to the game and this adds a new element to the game. It transforms the experience from being a passive viewer to an active viewer, which is neither good nor bad, rather a preference.

Lastly it is really fun being a part of the game. The score keeper adds to the viewing experience of the fans at the game. For all of us who got kicked out of little league because of poor performance but still has a desire to participate, this is a fantastic job to do. While we are not spot lighted like the players and the coaches, subconsciously an active fan really appreciates an accurate scoreboard. It does not make or break anything but makes it easier to come and go as a fan and keep closer track of what is going on in the game. As the season goes on I look forward to many more games at the scorers table, doing my part behind the scenes to sustain the great game experience of the California Warriors!

Written by Julian Bloch. Julian is an intern in the 2013 Intern Summer Program. 

O’Koyea Dickson Hits It Out of the Park!

O_Koyea_Dickson_041413_0294_saqw3fvz_2auesef6Warriors Alumni O’Koyea Dickson played a great series with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes against The San Jose Giants!

The San Jose Giants scored the final four runs of Monday’s game, rallying from a three-run deficit for a 6-5 win over the Quakes at Municipal Stadium.

A sac fly off the bat of Angel Villalona completed the come-back, as the Giants avoided a four-game sweep on their own home field, ending Rancho’s four-game winning streak and forcing the Quakes to settle for a 4-3 road trip up north.

Pedro Baez (1-1) suffered the loss, as he gave up a lead-off double to Ryan Caven to open the eighth and surrendered the sac fly to Villalona.

Rancho had a shot in the ninth, as Ryan Mount singled with two outs against Giants’ closer Hunter Strickland. The rally was short-lived though, as Strickland rebounded to retire Noel Cuevas, ending the game and recording his fourth save of the year.

The Quakes had leads of 2-0 and 5-2 on Monday night, but watched the Giants rally back to tie the game on both occasions.

O’Koyea Dickson’s fifth homer of the year in the first gave Rancho an early 2-0 lead for Jarrett Martin.

Martin was unable to hold the lead though, as San Jose tallied once in the first and again in the second.

The Quakes got three in the fourth, highlighted by run-scoring singles from Mount and Rob Garvey, as the Quakes took a 5-2 lead against Giants’ starter Clayton Blackburn.

Command got the best of Martin in the fourth, as he walked a pair of two-out hitters that came into score on Elliott Blair’s two-run double, pulling the Giants to within a run at 5-4.

Devin Harris’ solo homer to lead off the fifth tied the game, his league-leading tenth of the year.

Martin allowed a total of five runs on six hits over five innings in the no-decision.

Warriors Alum Spotlight – D3 & NAIA

D3 NAIAThe First Base Foundation has many student athletes playing baseball at the collegiate level this season. Here is an update on the ones playing DIII and NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes) baseball.

DIII

Jake Dorfman (Fr) LHP, Pomona-Pitzer College: After recovering from an early injury, Dorfman has made 1 appearance this season. Against Ithaca College he pitched 1 inning giving up 1 run on 2 hits and striking out 2 while recording the win
for the game.

Kenny Rabin (So) IF, Pomona-Pitzer College: In three games and one start this season, Rabin is hitting 1-6 with a run scored and a walk for the 22-7 Sagehens.

Guy Stevens (Sr) RHP, Pomona-Pitzer College: The Sagehens Senior Closer has made 1 appearance in 2.1 innings pitched. Stevens has recorded 1 save giving up 0 runs on 2 hits.

Adam Medoff (Sr) RHP, Amherst College: The Senior has thrown 4 innings in 4 total appearances this season. Medoff impressively has 7 strikeouts with zero walks so far this season while giving up only 2 earned runs.

Dominic Schwartz (Jr) IF, Brandeis University: Dom has played in 15 of the teams 22 games helping the Judges to a 7-15 overall record. The Junior infielder has 8 hits in 34 total at bats with 3 RBI and 4 runs scored. In a recent game against Worcester St., Schwartz went 2-4 with a walk and a run scored.

Logan Mobley (So) RHP, Middlebury College: The young right hander has started all three games he has appeared in this season for the 4-10 Panthers, with 1 complete game. Mobley has 12 strikeouts and only 5 walks in 14.2 innings pitched.

Rhett Gibbs (Fr) RHP, University of Puget Sound: The Freshman pitcher has made 3 appearances and 1 game start this season for the 11-18 Loggers. Gibbs has given up 4 earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched and an 0-1 record.

NAIA

Daniel Comstock (Fr) C, Menlo College: The outstanding Freshman is third on the Oaks with a .326 batting average, having started 37 of the teams 39 games behind the plate. Comstock is second on the team in nearly every major offensive category on the team. In a recent four game series against Coban University (Oregon), Comstock went 10-for-18 with 9 RBI and 4 runs scored.

Ronnie Schivo (Fr) MIF, Menlo College: In 30 Game appearances with 15 starts, the Freshman Middle Infielder is hitting .291 in 55 plate appearances. Schivo leads the team in stolen bases (10), despite his limited role. In the series against Corban University (Oregon) Ronnie 3-for-7 with 3 RBI and 7 runs scored.