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A Summer I’ll Never Forget – By Aaron Smith

August 9, 2013 | 0 Comments

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.