With summer officially upon us, it would make sense that baseball begins as well. While Northern California is home to several teams, one of its newest is making a splash in the Far West collegiate summer league.
Founded in 2011, the Neptune Beach Pearl baseball club has become one of the premiere summer collegiate teams on the West Coast and looks to follow up their successful first season with another outstanding year. “Our inaugural season was a tremendous success,” Scott Tully said. Tully established the Pearl last year and has led the way towards making the team one of the most competitive in the state. Based in Alameda, the Pearl made a run to the league championships last year before falling to the Humboldt Crabs – not a bad start for a brand new team just starting to work out all of the kinks.
For such a young organization, the Pearl will be relying on returning players to lead the way. “Ultimately the returning players for us, as an organization, are really important,” Coach Brant Cummings said. “They understand the chaos and they understand the daily routine.” Dealing with the challenges that come with summer ball, such as facilities, game day structure and creating chemistry with all of the players is something that the veterans can lead the way for the rest of the organization. One of those key returning figures is pitcher Chris Garrison, who was the star pitcher for the Pearl last season. Other names to watch this summer include catcher Alan Baldwin, infielder Blake Bass and outfielder Clay Williamson, all of whom Cummings sees as being leaders both on and off the field.
But the Pearl is more than just the opportunity for college athletes to play summer ball. The organization hopes to continue to build and cement its place in Alameda. By participating in the Food Bank and the Fourth of July parade, players, coaches and front office staff are all able to show Alameda just how dedicated they are to building a strong community. “What separates the Pearl from the majority of summer collegiate teams in Northern California is the ability for out of area players to live with gracious host families,” Tully said.
Part of what makes the Pearl so successful is the strong host family program. Thanks to the support of local families, players from as far away as Hawaii, Massachusetts and Florida are able to play in the Far West league. This enables the team to bring together a variety of different players – an experience that returning pitcher Jordan Louie considers one of the key elements of summer baseball. “Summer is the time for a lot of guys to get out and meet new people, play with some guys you’ve never played with before and it’s all about just having fun,” Louie said. “That’s what’s great about this team”
Last season the team finished with a 34-24 record and ended the year as the runner-ups in the Far West league championships. This year, they’ve set their sights even higher. “Just win more games than we’re going to lose,” Cummings said.
“We want to be able to participate in the community and hopefully, get them all on the field.” To Cummings and the rest of the individuals involved with the Pearl, it’s more than just playing baseball; it’s about becoming a player within the community and helping develop athletes both on and off the field.
If you need another reason to watch this team in action, Louie has something to say. “The atmosphere, the team, the guys, the competitiveness; just all around, it’s a fun summer,” Louie said. With strong coaching, a solid recruiting effort that created a competitive team and a supportive front office staff, the Neptune Beach Pearl looks to be ready to fight for the Far West championship title this year.
The Pearl will kick off the season this Saturday June 2nd at 4 pm, hosting the Bay Area Warriors for the 2012 Opening Day game. They return to action Sunday June 3rd at 1 pm in Marin. For more scheduling information and an updated calendar, be sure to check out the team’s website at neptunebeachpearl.com, and find the Facebook and Twitter pages.
Jenn Leser is a sophomore Communication and Political Science major from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. A lifelong Bay Area resident and avid baseball fan, she is the 2012 media relations intern for the Neptune Beach Pearl.