By Dan Harrington
More than 30 baseball players are ready to start this season for the City College Rams.
The coach can start a third of them in any given game but only four of the players from this season’s current roster have played a game for the Rams before.
“I think we can compete with anyone in the state,” 13-year head coach John Vanoncini said. “I’d rank this team as one of the most receptive to coaches’ input I have ever had.”
The coaching staff feels a full active roster with all but four freshmen bodes well for the program, due to their dedication in the weight room, their cardio, and making good use of time on the field.
In addition, “redshirts” are working towards the future, getting work in but not eligible for now. “These are guys we like for the future,” Vanoncini said. “They’re not quite ready, but have the potential to play at this level.”
Ben Ladner and Christian Murphy are the veteran leaders behind the plate for City College. Both catchers will see quality innings in the 2013 lineup, often with one of them behind the plate and the other at another starting position. Pitchers Roland Nazar and Nathan Watson are the team’s other two experienced players.
The team can use the experience of the four sophomores in the season opening two-game series against Laney College. The Rams’ first contest of the season happens Friday, Feb. 1 at Fairmont Field in Pacifica at 1 p.m. The teams return to the Eagles’ diamond on Saturday, Feb. 2 in Oakland at 1 p.m.
“The current composition of the team is young to be sure, but they have put their work in during the offseason,” Vanoncini said. “There were several teams we had a rough go with at first, and we worked hard and beat them the second time out.”
With a young team at the two-year college level, a knowledgeable posse of coaches is essential, and Vanoncini thinks he’s got that staff.
“We have a motivated group of coaches to mentor success,” Vanoncini said.
Tom Ledda, a former assistant at Archbishop Riordan and who also had a stint at Lowell High School, enters his second year as the bench coach. Former Lowell great Roland Nazar will serve as hitting coach for the third year.
Shane Carley will handle the duties of pitching coach for a second season. Former Ram third baseman Mario Mendoza is back for his second year on the coaching staff, and a year after playing on the Ram infield, Joe Wong returns to assist at City College.
Carley’s pitchers include projected starters, freshmen Kyle Orwig, Tyler Scharnow, and left-handed Michael Sweeney. Former St. Ignatius pitcher John Patrick “Paddy” Dunne may get the call when the game is on the line. Fellow newcomer Geoff Ogata from Encinal-Alameda has also impressed.
The game of baseball always offers surprise players as a season unfolds, and Vanoncini feels all his players have earned a chance to contribute.
“We have an athletic and speedy team,” Vanoncini said. “We’ll do the little things, like bunt, hit-and-run, and move runners over [to scoring position] in order to win.”
Until 2009, City College baseball and softball teams played at Balboa Park, separated from the main campus by Interstate 280. Now, instead of a walk on an overpass, Rams players and fans take a 15-minute car ride to Fairmont Field.
This will be the Rams’ fourth season at the Pacifica synthetic turf field.
Following the games with Laney, the Rams play Los Medanos College in a three-game series, hosting contests on Feb. 5 at 1 p.m. and Feb. 9 at noon. Los Medanos College hosts the middle game at their Pittsburg campus on Feb. 7 at 2 p.m.