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Dog days of summer

Offseason a grind for players with next-level aspirations

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Dog days of summer

Pitcher Brandon Taylor went the distance for the Manteca Baseball Club in its 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Tracy Aztecs Thursday in Stockton.

JAGADA CHAMBERS/The Bulletin


POSTED July 28, 2011 11:56 p.m.

STOCKTON – Twenty years ago kids played baseball into the summer and usually switched out their baseball spikes for football cleats in preparation for the transition from one sport to the other.

Now, those days are gone and the year-round demands for a baseball player who wants to reach the collegiate level are just kicking off another season. After playing a full schedule of games since the closing of winter ball, the expectations don’t waiver at all.

There are still avenues to accommodate a kid who wants to have fun with his friends and make a few road trips, but 90 percent of the players suiting up for the Manteca Baseball Club during a wood-bat tourney in Stockton are playing with the goal of continuing on.

“All these kids have aspirations of going on because of their love for the game,” Manteca head coach Greg Wilson said. “They are all putting their time in during the summer and it is really good to see.”

Making a choice to pursue a professional contract or uniform for a college team has opened a level of commitment that some players and parents may not be able to meet. Scheduling of family vacations, summer employment and expectations from other sports will undoubtedly take a back seat to baseball.

The younger players are coming off extended youth baseball postseasons, while the high school player has grinded since the close of that season. It is a circuit that has become typical, and more so than that, on the verge of becoming mandatory.

Manteca High graduate Ricky Acosta stepped on the scene for the Buffaloes during their postseason run as a sophomore. Work ethic and patience has guided Acosta’s career to a state championship with Delta College, where he led the Mustangs in hitting. He’s currently getting at-bats with Catch All 19-under tourney team.

His hard work has been rewarded with a spot on the San Jose State Spartans baseball roster, making his blueprint for success a valuable model.

“I don’t know how much of it is mandatory, because I know I took some time off after this season,” Acosta said. “I rested for a couple of months, but I know the whole time I was off I was fiending for the game. Sometimes you need to take some time off physically.

“Yet, in a sense it is mandatory. You simply cannot come into a season without having gotten the (at-bats). You can’t go into a season cold, you have to be hot and ready to go.”

The coaching staffs, like the players, are consistently sacrificing their summer months as well to help navigate a road to success for the area’s up-and-coming talent. With that sacrifice comes unwavering expectations that each kid who signs up will be held accountable to.

“We expect everything they’ve got,” Wilson said. “Otherwise, we don’t want them around. That attitude is contagious and we don’t want them to have a chance to bring someone down with them.

“We ask a lot of them when we get between the lines and they give it to us.”

The MBC team fought back for an impressive 5-4 win in the tournament opener for the Ultimate Wood Bat Super Regional hosted by Velocity Baseball. Starting shortstop Dakota Connors played a solid role in helping the squad pull out the victory. He’s one of the top younger players heading into the high school ranks and understands clearly what he wants out of the game of baseball.

“There has been a huge demand over the summer for me with baseball,” Connors said. “Everyday I practice or go in for a workout with a team and every weekend there’s a tournament or at least a game, so there is a full demand. This is the only way to reach your dreams; if you are not playing 24/7 I don’t know how you can make it.

“So I work hard because it’s been my dream forever.”

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