August 12, 2003
Plenty of surprises for Gold Sox
By Matt O'Donnell/Appeal-Democrat
There was no former major leaguers like Kevin Mitchell or Charley Kerfeld managing at Bryant Field this summer.
With the exception of late in the year, home runs did not fly over fences with alarming frequency.
And even though the Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox played in the California Coastal Collegiate League, conference games did not take on the same importance.
Still, the amateur wood bat organization managed to outdraw the professional-label Gold Sox of a year ago. That team, burdened by a year of inactivity and irate season ticket holders and sponsors, finished last in attendance in the Western Baseball League.
No official attendance reports are provided by the CCCL, but Yuba-Sutter's average paid attendance of 1,029 appeared to top the circuit, according to what others told manager Brad Peek.
"That was more than I thought would come," Peek said. "Our paid crowd was a little over 1,000 and I think that meant about 800 in attendance or so, which is awesome."
While the Santa Barbara Foresters and San Luis Obispo Blues traveled to the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan., co-owner Bob Bavasi said he doesn't foresee the Gold Sox being eligible to play in that kind of postseason tournament.
Bavasi pointed to four teams in Wisconsin in the wood bat Northwoods League that outdraw affiliated minor league teams in the state as a model. He said those teams don't go to Wichita either and have their own form of championship.
He said a summer series would try and emulate that, although the details are currently vague.
Gold Sox right fielder Tom Everidge, who led the team in hitting, extra base hits and RBIs, played in the Northwoods League a year ago and said Yuba-Sutter's league opponents compared favorably.
"We're really out here for the fans and I think they've gotten their money's worth," he said. "I think they've seen some exciting baseball. I just wish we had something to play for, some kind of playoffs. I think maybe that's the only downer."
Bavasi praised Peek, calling him someone who not only gets the most out of his players but also understands the business aspect of baseball. Pitchers like ace Fred Carney had similar thoughts about his manager.
Peek, who signed a one-year contract in March, isn't sure what his status will be for next season but does plan to meet with the owners in the fall. Bavasi said there's usually a waiting period with a manager since other opportunities can arise.
"I'm a pretty easy-going guy. I'm not actively pursuing anything else," Peek said. "I'm pretty happy working for my family and I'd like to do the Marysville thing again."
Bavasi and Peek agreed that level of competition is a key issue for next season. While a majority of the CCCL teams were similar or exceeded the level of talent on the Gold Sox, other nonleague teams like the Sacramento Athletics and the Elk Grove Oaks proved vastly inferior.
First baseman A.J. Valentine said it was strange facing a pitcher like Maxim's Matt Durkin, who threw 94 mph and the next week hitting against another hurler who struggled to hit 82 on the gun.
"Some of the competition was outstanding, playing against guys at levels I hope to be at in a year from now," said Valentine, who will be a sophomore at Shasta College in the fall. "Some were average, community-college or less than, just teams that were slapped together for summer competition."
Bavasi said there could be changes associated with next year's product and not being part of the CCCL could be one of those.
CCCL president Bill Pintard indicated that other league owners could be pushing for the Gold Sox to play more road dates next season. Bavasi is certain that can not be the case with their economic model.
"Almost all of the teams in the league were competitive, but where we're trying to go and model ourselves after some of the other summer collegiate leagues that have minor league atmosphere," Bavasi said. "That's why I'm big on the idea of a summer series because every game matters. You wouldn't have league and nonleague games."
Peek said the organization handed out a questionnaire to the players and all said they would potentially come back. Some of them won't because they're graduating seniors and others could be selected in next June's Amateur Draft.
While league teams like the Solano Thunderbirds and Foresters featured more of a Div. I roster, the Gold Sox opted for a Div. II-heavy lineup this season. Peek said that could change a bit, although he didn't want to discount players at smaller colleges.
"Sometimes the difference with Div. I guys is the hitters are a little more powerful and the pitchers throw harder," Peek said. "But I think we had a lot of guys like Everidge, (Darren) Sack and Carney who could easily play at one of those colleges. I mean, I wouldn't trade anyone on this team for them. The other thing is, sometimes you have to do more baby-sitting with those higher-profile guys."
Personnel-wise, the 2003 season produced its share of surprises.
Among those was starting pitcher Andy Kloos, who was 0-3 with a 10.34 ERA for UC Davis, but was 5-2, 1.95 with the Gold Sox. On the other hand, first baseman David Butterworth, one of the Aggies most consistent players during the year, hit just .200 with seven RBIs before leaving the team for summer football drills.
Another of those surprises was Valentine, who was expected to just fill in during the opening weekend of the season but ended up playing 31 games and hitting .262.
Valentine did this despite working Sunday through Wednesday at Applebee's in Redding, helping support his fiancee Cory and 3-year-old daughter Kacie.
"I wasn't staying with a host family in the first half of the season and I was driving here every single day," Valentine said. "The gas bill got so high driving here and back four hours, two hours back and fourth, a day, I finally decided to stay somewhere. But other than that ... I can't get tired of baseball."
Although the Gold Sox were 16 games over .500 overall, they were 11-15 in league play. They dropped four extra-inning games to the Foresters and Thunderbirds, the top two teams in the league.