PenCities White Sox manager Lenny Souza figured his team accomplished most everything it could playing at the under-19 level as a member of the Palomino Division under the PONY baseball umbrella.
This year, Souza is going to lead the White Sox into the collegiate/adult division as the program embarks on an independent schedule for the 2019 summer.
“I felt like we had done everything we could at that (Palomino) level — except make the (Palomino) world series,” said Souza, who also serves as manager for the Aragon baseball team. “The idea was to make sure [the players] are getting junior-college competition.
“It’s a new venture. It’s exciting. It’s new.”
The White Sox will play their home games at Skyline College and will play road games around the greater Bay Area, including stops at Baylands in Palo Alto, Sonoma State University and San Leandro Ballpark, which is right off Interstate 880, about three exits south of the Oakland Coliseum. They will be making one major road trip — a two-team, five-game roadie to San Diego, where they’ll face the San Diego Invaders and San Diego Hustle.
“Comic-con is going on that weekend,” Souza said.
The team is comprised mainly of former White Sox and current Skyline College players, including the likes of Matt Leong (Hillsdale), Mitchell Plane (Carlmont) and Tyler White (Burlingame). Dominic Monzon (San Mateo) is returning from his sophomore year at Lewis & Clark College.
Souza said about a third to a half of the team are returning players and another handful — David Bedrosian (Carlmont) and Camron Grant (Aragon) — recently finished up their senior years of high school. The rest of the team is filled out by word of mouth.
“Players are picked up based on player recommendations,” Souza said. “That’s how we’ve found some of our best players. The kids vouch for good players.”
Because the White Sox are not part of any league, they are not beholden to any league’s rules. So while the team is essentially a college-level squad, there are a few high school seniors. But most of the team is comprised of players who recently wrapped up freshman and sophomore college seasons.
“We decided to cap it at 23U. But more are 18, 19, 20 and one 23-year-old,” Souza said. “We’re not in a league, so we can do what we want.”
Not being in a league, however, means putting together a schedule proved to be a daunting task. Without a built-in league schedule, Souza had to go out and put together a 31-game season by serving as non-league games for teams in other leagues. And the schedule runs the gamut: the White Sox will be playing against adult teams, college-level and some high school U18 squads.
“We looked into getting into leagues. It just didn’t work out. It kind of forced us to be an independent team for a summer,” Souza said. “Our schedule is crazy. … You schedule whoever you want, you don’t have to answer to anybody, you can play as many games as you want, you can pick where you travel.
“The drawback is, there are no playoffs.”
Souza said that the biggest hurdle was convincing these other teams that his was a legitimate operation. As a new program, the White Sox had not built up any kind of reputation and when field and umpire costs are factored in, teams want to make sure that the “new guy” is a bona fide team that will show up for games. Souza spent several weeks finding teams and leagues online and then reaching out with phone calls to put together his schedule.
“There were a lot of, ‘Who the hell are you’ (questions),” Souza said. “But it’s funny how all the (baseball) circles run. It’s a lot of the same people (I’ve dealt with in the past). A lot of the guys (I contacted) were very helpful.”
The only thing left to do is start play. The White Sox will kick off their 31-game schedule June 9, when they’ll take a short trip down Highway 101 to Baylands Park in Palo Alto to face the Palo Alto Oaks.
“Guys want to do other things (during the summer),” Souza said. “But guys also want to get in their swings and get in their throwing.”