High expectations heading into the upcoming season for the Glendale Community College baseball team were accompanied with even higher praise from the California Community College Baseball Coaches Assn.
The CCCBCA released its state preseason All-American list that included four GCC players, three of which are pitchers.
“When I first heard about this, I was real excited. It means a lot that our program has reached a level of success where we’re recognized like this,” Vaqueros Coach Chris Cicuto said. “Of course, it helps to have some strong arms and certainly we have talent in the front part, but I have trust in the back-end of our staff and this entire team.”
Glendale is one of two programs along with College of the Canyons to have multiple All-American pitchers and the lone squad with three in right-handers Angel Rodriguez, Keaton Leach and DJ Milam.
Outfielder Jay Sheely was also named a preseason All-American and is the Vaqueros’ lone position player to receive such distinction.
Rodriguez, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, led the Western State South Conference in wins with an 8-3 mark and strikeouts (57) and was second in earned-run average (2.26).
“Angel and Keaton have the potential to have some really big years. What’s exciting is that they have experience and know what to expect,” Cicuto said. “You saw what Angel did last year, he has good control and knows how to work the batter.”
Rodriguez, a bounce back from Cal State Northridge, is joined by Leach, a one-time Fresno State signee who was drafted by the Chicago Cubs last summer in the 32nd round with the 948th overall pick.
Leach put together a solid and versatile 2013 season in which he split time starting and coming out of the pen.
Leach was 5-1 with one save in seven starts and 13 overall appearances, which accounted for 41 1/3 innings pitched. The former South Pasadena High standout posted a 2.61 ERA and fanned 23 batters.
“My coaches told me about the award and I thought it was great. It was great to get recognized,” Leach said. “I think there’s pressure and expectations on the pitching staff to do well and we can. We can lead this team.”
While Leach has one last season to impress college and major league scouts before choosing to go pro or into the four-year collegiate ranks, the 6-3 hurler said his thoughts haven’t drifted away from the present.
“Right now, honestly, all I’m thinking about is this season. I think we can have a great year and that’s all I’m preparing for,” Leach said. “It’s exciting.”
One such player who is looking to the future is Milam, who confirmed that he will not pitch this upcoming season.
The 6-4 hurler will use a medical red-shirt year this season after injuring himself during the summer.
“It means everything to me to be named on the list. I would have never had expected it,” Milam said. “Unfortunately, I tore my labrum during the summer and I’m out.”
Milam said he will meet with a surgeon Feb. 17 to determine if he needs surgery or can rehab without surgery.
As for the aforementioned Sheely, the sophomore outfielder finished second on the squad with a .343 batting average that included 11 RBI, nine runs and three doubles.
“Jay was also excited when I told him about being selected an All-American,” Cicuto said. “Then I asked him if he knew what that meant.
“He thought for a few moments and then said ‘Nothing.’ I think we’d all love to win this award at the end of the season, too.”