Here past the dead end of Albireo Avenue in Vandenberg Village, changes have arisen for Cabrillo High baseball’s 2019 unit.
There’s new grass and sod sprinkled on Don McIntyre Field that gives the venue a fresher look, there’s new top railing that covers along the outfield fence, there’s 16 players and a veteran head coach now embracing the grind of playing in a newly reformed league soon.
And lastly, there’s this final change for the Conquistadores: Their first trip to the Show-Me State come April.
All this helps lead into new challenges, but enthusiasm, for this year’s diamond Conqs.
And the excitement starts with the rehabilitated field.
“Our facility was in pretty rough shape and the Lompoc Unified School District, the school board members and our athletic director all got together and helped put this facility together along with softball. It was a big, big deal and another part of the excitement for this season,” said CHS baseball head coach Jon Osborne, who added finances from both the athletic department and school board led to the venue changes.
“They came out here and tore out the whole outfield and infield grass, plus the foul territory grass. They’ve re-graded it and put down new sod in the outfield and infield grass. Our athletic department was able to get some money to get new wind screens and new top rail for our fence.”
It won’t be long before new league rival San Marcos will get the chance to be the first Channel League opponent to set its baseball cleats into the new grass and dirt. That game is on Feb. 22 in the C.L opener.
Then from April 16 to 18, Cabrillo will embark on a rare out-of-state journey made possible by 2007 CHS grad and Kansas City Royals star pitcher Danny Duffy.
The revered CHS alum helped get his high school team set up to take part in a three-day baseball fest against Raymore-Peculiar of Peculiar, Missouri, (April 16), Blue Springs High at Satchel Paige Memorial Stadium in Kansas City (April 17) and lastly, Joplin High at Kauffman Stadium (April 18) – the home of Duffy’s Major League Baseball employer.
“That’s absolutely a wonderful thing. We’ve been working on that for a long time,” Osborne said of the upcoming Missouri trip. “Lots of pieces of the puzzle had to fall together in regards to us not being in school, us not having spring break and being able to find teams back there. Plus being able to get the OK to be able to go through our school and board – lots of things had to fall into place. It’s going to be a real exciting trip.”
However, Osborne is trying to prevent his guys from focusing entirely on that three-day getaway.
“We’re trying to keep things in perspective: It’s going to be exciting and will be toward the end of the school year. It’s going to be great but we have three games there out of the 25 – and we still have to worry about the other 22,” Osborne said. “We have some trips planned like tour the Negro Leagues Museum and tour Kauffman Stadium. The No. 1 thing, though, is going back there to play baseball. We’re going to go try and compete against some other schools from a different state that we don’t know anything about. But the generosity of Danny to do something like that just speaks volumes about his character and loyalty.”
The center of attention for CHS still falls on its first set of games and the C.L contests. Returning senior Matt Gonzalez, who is expected to be the Conqs’ No. 1 pitcher this spring, is looking forward to the Santa Barbara region gauntlet.
“It’s going to be a good experience,” Gonzalez said. “The teams are obviously better, but I think we can compete with them.”
Fellow returning senior Mason Townes shared a similar sentiment regarding the revamped C.L.
“They’re definitely talented, but I think we’ll be able to compete,” Townes said.
Gonzalez and Townes are among the seven seniors leading the Conquistadores this spring. Joining them will be Cesar Frausto, Steven Moreno, Patrick Garcia, Blake Beecher and Anthony Lopez.
Ethan Malta, who managed to crack the pitching rotation last season as a sophomore, helps spearhead the junior class along with Austin Wolf, Michael Greene, Andrew Pollock, Vicente Canchola and Alec Brown. Hunter Barthell, Luke Kovach and Gavin Townes are the sophomores joining the varsity roster for CHS.
Osborne has spent his time at Vandenberg Village coaching against the likes of Lompoc, Santa Ynez, Santa Maria, St. Joseph, Morro Bay and Paso Robles during various league cycles. But now, his teams will be going against schools with a larger enrollment – leading to more numbers to draw from in completing the final baseball rosters.
“The Channel League is going to a challenge. It’s been a challenge for most of our sports teams already because they’re a lot larger and have more kids,” Osborne said. “It’s harder for us smaller schools to compete with them. It’s exciting to have a new league, but it’s going to be a different challenge for us personally.”
Yet, with all the challenges and changes laid out in front of CHS, Gonzalez is helping get his team zeroing in on the primary goal:
“We’re trying to make it far in CIF,” Gonzalez said. “We made wildcard (last year) and it wasn’t fun. We’ve got to be better than last year.”