In its first two seasons of existence, the Glendale Angelenos have gone from an expansion team seeking an identity in a premier baseball collegiate league to an independent program boasting a phenomenal record.
The Angelenos won 24 games in 2011 before posting 40 victories last season, providing Glendale General Manager and Coach Tony Riviera reason for optimism and setting loftier goals for the 2013 season, which will kick off at 5 p.m. Thursday with a California Summer Collegiate League North Division contest against the host East L.A. Dodgers at Warren High in Downey.
"What we did last year was something we didn't expect," said Riviera, whose team went 40-10 last season as an independent squad. "We had one of the best summer college records in the country.
"Going off that, the easy thing to say is that last year was indeed magical and would be tough repeating. We are going into this season looking to cut the loss total in half and try to go around 45-5. We have a lot of returners, some of them who might be drafted in June, but we have a lot of depth throughout our roster that can help us play a role in achieving our goals."
The Angelenos spent the 2011 season in the California Collegiate League before opting to become an independent squad last season. The newly-formed California Summer League will consist of six teams and two divisions. Glendale, East L.A. and the Ventura Pirates will make up the North Division and the South Division will consist of the Long Beach Legends, Montebello Stars and Orange County Storm.
The top two teams from each division will qualify for the playoffs. The teams will be seeded in order of finish and will play in single-elimination contests with the winners advancing to a best-of-three series that will determine the league champion.
Glendale's home opener at Stengel Field will be at 6:30 p.m. June 6 against the Southern California Halos. The league's all-star game will be held at 5 p.m. June 30 at Stengel Field.
"It's something we've been working on for a long time," Riviera said. "It will be exciting to have a new league with a lot of good players and the league members running the league."
Riviera said the Angelenos might be forced to vacate Stengel Field by July 1. According to Riviera, the city of Glendale is mulling over the idea to have the field undergo maintenance, though nothing has yet been decided. Riviera said it's not clear where the Angelenos would play the remainder of their home games if they must relocate.
The Angelenos will open with a roster of 33 players, many with ties to the Glendale Community College baseball team that won its third Western State Conference South Division championship in a row and advanced to the postseason. Eighteen members of the Angelenos have played for the Vaqueros, who also play their home games at Stengel Field.
"We will have some firepower with the guys from GCC," Riviera said. "I just like our roster as a whole.
"The strengths of our team will be pitching and defense. We have a team that prides itself on shutting down other teams. I love the makeup of our team. We let the players know their roles and we stay with that."
The starting pitching staff will include Angel Rodriguez and Mike Robinson of GCC, USC's Sean Adler, Usui Kamakani of Vanguard University and Kyle McDorman of Northwest Florida State College.
Rodriguez, who went 8-3 and was named the Western State Conference's South Division Pitcher of the Year for GCC, said it's important for athletes to use the summer season as a time to improve.
"It's an added opportunity to go out there and work on different things," said Rodriguez, a right-hander. "It means a lot to be able to play summer ball because you are playing alongside great talent and you are going up against excellent talent.
"I think we have a little bit of everything to do well, and it starts with our pitching and defense."
The bullpen will feature Spencer Jack and Sam Frakes of GCC, Hector Gomez of Cal State Dominguez Hills and Occidental College's Scott Hong, a former Vaquero.
Handling the catching responsibilities will be Nicholas LaFace of UC San Diego, AJ Fritts of USC and Andre Bello of GCC.
The infield will likely be a combination of Ellis Whitman (formerly of GCC and now at Vanguard), Gomez and Julian Jarrard of GCC. The second baseman and shortstop will be Nike Garcia of Cal State Los Angeles and Matt Tellesco of Sonoma State, respectively. Patrolling third base will be Hoover High graduate Sako Chapjian, who now plays at Lewis-Clark State and is a former Vaquero. Matt McCallister and Michael McCallister and Ruben Padilla, all of whom have ties to GCC, will also play in the infield.
In the outfield will be a combination of Edgar Montes and Jay Sheely of GCC, Jimmy Bosco of Menlo College, Hong, John Schwer of Vanguard and formerly of GCC, Gomez and Chapjian.
"Early on in the season, guys might not be at full strength," Tellesco said. "We feel like we are going to have quite a bit of talent, and we will need everybody to step up and do their jobs.
"It will be exciting to be a part of a new league. We definitely would like to win our division."
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