Napa Valley College baseball at work preparing for 2020 season
By MARTY JAMES
The fall is a very important time for the Napa Valley College baseball program.
It's a time of year when head coach Dan Parker and his staff lead position players and pitchers in practices that start in August and finish just before Thanksgiving.
It's a time of year when so much work can get done – such as hitting and fielding, situational drills and team meetings.
It's a time of year when the coaching staff can get a good look at everyone who is vying to get on the roster for the 2020 season.
It's a time of year when everyone is also involved in a weight training program.
"We make sure that they're in the right classes and everything when school starts and then we get out here toward the last week of August and get going," Parker said last week at Storm Field.
Napa Valley has practices four or five days a week. There are also scrimmages against other schools.
There are 26 players out for baseball, a spring sport that will resume with official practices in January and the season-opening nonconference game. Napa Valley plays in the Bay Valley Conference.
"This year, we're doing it a little bit different. We're really breaking down the game a little bit more than we have in the past, and getting into our team philosophy, what we want to do defensively and offensively and what our pitching style is going to be, a little bit earlier than we usually do," said Parker, who is in his fourth year with the Storm.
"I'm enjoying working with a smaller group of guys this year compared to 65 to 75 kids that we've brought in each fall since I've been here."
There is a possibility that more players could join the team in January.
Parker takes great pride in helping his players transfer on to four-year programs, saying, "That's always our main focus. We do a great job placing kids after they leave here. We are, obviously, happy in terms of moving guys on and what kind of player that we're producing and putting out."
Napa Valley (11-20 overall, 8-13 Bay Valley Conference) finished last season strong, going 6-4 over its last 10 games and also winning its final game, 10-9 over Yuba of Marysville on April 26.
In that season-ending game, the Storm was led by Trent Davis (2-for-5, two RBIs, home run), Tyler Peters (2-for-4, RBI, double), Carter Pennington (2-for-3), Benny Jaramillo (2-for-3, RBI, double), Joseph Bogdan (1-for-4, RBI), Antonio Diaz (1-for-4), and Noah Wallen (1-for-5, RBI).
Antonio Diaz and Tanner Fonoti are two of the top returning players for NVC.
Diaz batted. 240 in 31 games with 31 hits, including five doubles, and had 16 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. Diaz will play in center field.
Fonoti was 2-6 with a 4.93 earned run average in 11 appearances (eight starts).
Clayton Espino was named first-team All-BVC at catcher and Peters was first-team in the outfield.
Davis was named second-team infield.
Selected as honorable mention were Fonoti as a pitcher, Stefan Raeth in the infield, and Joe Bogdan at designated hitter.
Espino hit .366 with four doubles and 15 RBIs. Peters hit .338 with nine doubles, four home runs and 25 RBIs. Davis batted .242 with 11 doubles, a triple, two home runs and 20 RBIs. Raeth batted .274 with six doubles, a triple, home run and 16 RBIs. Bogdan hit .273 with six doubles, two home runs and 13 RBIs.
The Storm's pitching was a bright spot in a recent scrimmage against City College of San Francisco.
"Our pitching is better," said Parker. "We played San Francisco the other day and played really well. The fall is always a tough judge of what we're going to be like. But with that said, we didn't walk as many people as we normally have in the past and we didn't strike out as much as we have in the past.
"All those things said, it looks like we're better than we have been in the past. You always want to win more."
Warren Brusstar and Donnie Gardiner are the Storm's assistant coaches.
Brusstar, the team's pitching coach, was in the major leagues for nine seasons and won a World Series championship in 1980 as a reliever with the Philadelphia Phillies. He had a 28-16 record with 14 saves and a 3.51 ERA, appearing in 340 games, during his career.
Brusstar spent six years working as a pitching coach in the Phillies' organization. He has coached in both the California League and the independent Atlantic League.
He is a Napa High graduate and is in the NHS Athletic Hall of Fame, NVC Athletic Hall of Fame, Philadelphia Hall of Fame as a member of the Phillies' 1980 team, California Community College Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and Fresno State Wall of Fame.
Gardiner played at NVC and Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Gardiner pitched and was a utility player at Academy of Art, where he hit .253 with two doubles and 12 RBIs, while compiling a 1-0 record and 3.27 ERA in six appearances during the 2019 season.
Parker threw batting practice the other day, with infielders making plays on ground balls. The position players around the infield are very young and it's also a young pitching staff. The outfield appears to be a strength – with players combining very good offensive skills with very good speed.
"We do everything – full cage work," said Parker. "Typically, we're always in a game-like mode when we're out here.
"The group of kids is great. They can go as far as they want to go."
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association, Associated Press Sports Editors, and California Prep Sports Media Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Vintage High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2019.