Fall ball on the College of San Mateo baseball diamond has been all about competition.
Every pitch, every swing, every ground ball, heck, every stride on the base path has been charted, assessed a point total and quantified for every Bulldog to see on a big board the following day.
If that seems like a pressure-packed way of selecting the best starting lineup and pitching staff it’s because that has always been the idea for manager Doug Williams and his staff.
Yes, the big scoreboard up over the left field fence isn’t necessarily keeping score. But that doesn’t mean another type of scoring hasn’t been kept. And come today against the College of Marin in the season opener for the Bulldogs, the rest of CSM and its baseball fans will know exactly who’s come out on top.
“I think this team is an interesting group,” Williams said. “I really like the way they practice, how they compete. We’ve completely turned our practices into competitive environments where everything that is being done is being charted and adding up to a point total — and they responded well to it. I got a bunch of guys that like to play baseball, like to get after it. I think we’ll have decent team speed, I think we’ll be fairly offensive and I think we’re going to throw the ball in the strike zone pretty consistently.”
It was actually a different sort of fall camp for the Bulldogs, who were without Williams as he served a sabbatical in Italy supporting the country’s baseball academy and national team. Williams returned in early December and the evaluation process heightened.
“It was still a very competitive atmosphere with Doug gone,” said CSM second baseman Dane Vande Guchte. “We worked hard to get to where we are right now. There are a lot of new faces. But I think we mesh pretty well. We all know we have a job to do and are going to do it to the best of our ability — trying to get this thing done.”
The thing about this year’s CSM baseball team revolves around youth — as in, there are a lot of freshmen on this squad. While that isn’t unusual on a community college baseball team, the Bulldogs chime in at a little above average. Thus, the 2014 season begins with more than its fair share of uncertainty — at least on the preview front. That said, the word Williams repeated a lot during his annual preseason press conference was depth.
“We have a whole bunch of guys that have the opportunity to step up and play when the games start,” he said.
That will be the most obvious on the pitching staff, where all but two of the pitchers are freshmen.
“We had huge turnover,” Williams said. “I think it’s going to be a lot more, total-staff contributions this year than in past years.”
Tim Gretter (Capuchino) and Skyler Fuss are the two with Bulldog experience.
“I think we have a lot of guys who are willing to be role players and do what they can do to help the team,” Fuss said. “And they understand that. We have the guys that are willing to take the sacrifices and take their roles and we’re not going to have any problems.”
Much like the pitching, the theme of youth is very prevalent in the CSM outfield where only Kailen Robinson returns after a fairly successful first year with the Bulldogs.
“We have options and there are different ways we can go with the lineup,” Williams said with direct reference to the outfield. “I do like our outfield in terms of covering ground, arm strength, different things we can do with personnel in terms of potential power to potential speed. It’s truly — and it may sound a little ambiguous right now — but it truly is an ongoing competition. We have always operated on the belief that it’s good for raising the bar. You have to look at it that way and the guys are.”
CSM’s infield is about the surest part of the team, on paper — it has three players who saw playing time last season and another who is transferring from Santa Clara University in Matt Glomb. Expect Vande Guchte to be the glue of not just the infield, but the entire Bulldog team. The second baseman hit .305 last year and drove in 20 runs.
“I’m just going to play my role,” Vande Guchte said. “I’m not a power hitter. I’m going to try and get my on-base percentage up, steal bases and just try to lift up the team.”
“This is certainly a fun group to watch,” Williams said, “because they do truly compete and I think that competition has allowed each of them to reach another level.”
The first pitch of the 2014 season is scheduled for 2 p.m.