BERKELEY – If hope truly does spring eternal at the outset of any baseball season, consider the circumstances under which the Cal baseball team began its 2017 campaign a lesson in optimism born from a fresh start.
A roster would have come in handy on the Golden Bears' first official day of practice as a three-week sprint to the start of a 54-game marathon kicked off Friday under bright Berkeley sunshine at Evans Diamond. An intrasquad scrimmage got head coach David Esquer's group rolling, and with a host of new faces in new places all around the diamond, the energy of a new season served as an undercurrent as work began to get ready for the Feb. 17 opener against Cal Poly.
Until then, and likely even after the first pitch has been thrown, a largely new squad will focus its attention on shaping a new identity for Cal baseball. With 11 seniors gone to graduation and seven players earning selection in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft, the Golden Bears now turn to a roster that includes 20 new players as the 2017 season lies just a few weeks ahead.
Having had the fall semester to begin getting acquainted through conditioning and skills work, the getting-to-know-you period has already passed inside the Cal clubhouse. On the field though, the familiarity level continues to evolve as the push towards the regular season gets underway in earnest.
"You hope to be a better team at the end of the season than you are at the start of the season and you're just starting that long marathon," Esquer said. "Everyone's got the same hope, everybody's not sure what their team looks like, everybody's zero and zero and there's a lot of promise but it can be really competitive. With our club, it's really competitive this January. Three weeks for two, three or four spots to be won or lost and two, three or four positions in the batting order to be changed or solidified."
Former Cal Bears quarterback Jared Goff was thrown right into the spotlight at the ripe age of 21 last year. After going No. 1 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft to the Rams, Goff was made into one of the star characters on HBO's Hard Knocks as cameras followed the team during training camp.
Right off the bat, the show didn't always give the best impression of Goff. Going from a spread offense at Cal to struggling with snaps under center and having hiccups with the verbiage of an NFL offense is natural. What the show tried to bring to life were Goff's smarts, or lack thereof in some cases.
"Which Hard Knocks storyline was the last to die: William Hayes’s obsession with mermaids and dinosaurs, or you not knowing which directions the sun rises and sets?" Goff was recently asked by Sports Illustrated.
"They’re both alive and well. I hear about the sun thing quite often. That was so overblown," Goff said while laughing at the question.
"Hard Knocks is good. Hard Knocks is fun. But there are a lot of things that they like to script a little bit. And making fun of the rookie is definitely one of those things."
Swimming & Diving
According to some college swimming enthusiasts, the women’s NCAA crown has been all-but settled for some time now.
Read the comments section of any recruiting article over the past few seasons and you’ll get a strong sense that Stanford should be the runaway favorites for this year’s NCAA title, if not for a streak of several years.
And while it’s true that Stanford has ruled recruiting for the past several seasons and that the Cardinal still are the clear frontrunners for the title, recent swims by California have made that frontrunner status far less cut-and-dried as it has appeared the rest of this season.
The Cal women finished off their weekend of dual meets with another victory, this time downing the UCLA Bruins with a score of 165-128. The Bears had 4 swimmers win multiple individual races, including Abbey Weitzeil, Amy Bilquist, Celina Li, and Noemie Thomas.
Weitzeil, who has been demonstrating her breaststroke skills for the Beats on the 200 medley relay, raced in the individual 100 breast. In the individual 100 breast, she won with a 1:02.39 ahead of teammate Marina Garcia (1:03.35). She also won the 50 free with a quick 22.44 over teammate Farida Osman (22.62).
Weitzeil didn’t swim the 50 breast leg on the medley relay this time around, however, as she anchored with a 21.82 free split. She was even faster than that on their 200 free relay at the end of the session, anchoring the C-relay in 21.54. Teammate Osman was also sub-22, as she anchored the A-relay with a 21.81.