As finals came to a close Friday and UC Irvine baseball players are bound for their summer destinations, Anteaters Coach Mike Gillespie is pleased to report the return to the program of Pat Shine, the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator.
Shine missed the final 23 games of the 2012 season and had been absent from the program since late April, before returning to work on Monday.
The reason for Shine’s absence, referred to by school officials only as a personnel matter, remains unknown. It is also unclear whether he was suspended or placed on leave.
Gillespie said Shine’s unscheduled departure, during which director of operations Eric Deragisch assumed the duties of an assistant coach, had little impact on the players’ ability to perform during the 31-25 campaign in which UCI finished fourth in the Big West Conference and failed to make the NCAA postseason for the first time in seven years.
“To say that it was not an issue in any way, I could not say that,” Gillespie said of Shine’s absence. “But I was sort of proud of the way the players made an adjustment and sort of slogged along and went about their business. It was not obvious they were distracted by it.”
Gillespie said recruiting was affected, as focus on the class of 2014 was diminished.
Gillespie also said he believes an explanation of why Shine missed time does not serve anyone now.
“It would be preferred around here that nobody speaks of the specifics of what happened,” Gillespie said.
Trying to ensure the postseason drought is discontinued next season, Gillespie will send nearly 20 players to compete in summer leagues throughout the country.
Andrew Thurman, the ‘Eaters lone first-team All-Big West performer as a sophomore in 2012, will pitch in the Cape Cod League. Thurman, who threw a no-hitter, took another no-no into the ninth inning and had a one-hit shutout during a breakout season for UCI, will return to the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, who opened their season Thursday.
Pitcher Jimmy Litchfield, who will be a junior in 2013, is the other UCI representative in the Cape, where he will compete for the Chatham Anglers.
Dillon Moyer, who will be a junior next season, is playing for the Battle Creek (Mich.) Bombers in the Northwoods League. Gillespie said Moyer’s ability to develop offensively (he has hit .171 in 129 collegiate at-bats) is one of the leading areas of concern during the summer.
Connor Spencer, who hit .306 with 30 runs batted in during an impressive freshman season, is bound for the New England Collegiate Baseball League, where he will play for the Holyoke Blue Sox.
Taylor Sparks, Chris Rebago, Jerry McClanahan, Kris Paulino and Ryan Cooper, all freshmen in 2012, are among 10 ‘Eaters competing in the West Coast Collegiate League that has teams in Oregon, Washington and Canada.
Sparks, senior-to-be Jeff Stephens and Kyle Davis, who redshirted in 2012, will play for the Wenachee (Wash.) Apple Sox.
Paulino and Cooper are with the Walla Walla (Wash.) Sweets, while McClanahan and Jonathan Muñoz, another redshirt last season, are with the Kelowna Falcons, based in British Columbia, Canada.
Pitchers Mitch Merten and Andy Lines are with the Klamath Falls (Ore.) Gems, while Rabago is with the Corvallis (Ore.) Knights.
Justin Castro, a redshirt freshman in 2012, will play for the Nashua (N.H.) Silver Knights of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.
Gillespie said pitchers Phil Ferragamo, Race Parmenter and Sam Moore, as well as outfielder Scott Gottschling, are all playing in leagues based in Orange County, so they can attend summer school.
Pitchers Matt Whitehouse and Kyle Hooper, both of whom had injury-shortened seasons in 2012, are not playing competitively this summer, as is the case with pitcher Evan Brock and catcher Ronnie Shaeffer, who is expected to return a fifth-year senior next season.
Finally, Gillespie said that the loss of would-be recruits Timmy Lopes, Andrew Potter and Kevin Grendell, who all signed professionally after going in the first 11 rounds of the Major LeagueFirst-Year Player Draftlast week, is disappointing, though hardly unexpected.
Gillespie said the fact that future Anteater Dominque Taylor, who has 105 RBIs and 56 stolen bases in two seasons at Salt Lake Community College in Utah, was not drafted, was a “bullet dodged.”
Taylor, drafted after his freshman season in the 33rd round by the Houston Astros (No. 1,000 overall) in 2011, could still be signed as a free-agent, Gillespie pointed out. But that scenario is unlikely.
"[Taylor] has prioritized college, but we knew there was a risk involved with him [being drafted],” Gillespie said.