Angelenos wrap up inaugural season

GLENDALE — Though it didn't produce a winning record in its first year of existence, members of the Glendale Angelenos said expectations were largely met.

On and off the field, the season, which began in late-May and concluded Sunday, proved to be a challenge for the baseball team that finished 24-26 and 11-25 for sixth place in the competitive California Collegiate League. The original roster began to turn over almost immediately after a bevy of players left the Angelenos after they were selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in early June.

For Glendale Coach Tony Riviera, it was a case of him mixing and matching players and giving them opportunities to succeed around the diamond.

"We were able to achieve so many things," said Riviera, whose team finished second in the league with 34 home runs and ended its season Sunday with a 5-4 league road loss against the Conejo Oaks. "For our first year, we exceeded expectations and we learned a lot that that can help prepare us for next year.

"We drew large crowds toward the last part of the season. We had people coming over from nearby Verdugo Park to our games. We received thank-yous from the parents and the fans."

On the field, the Angelenos provided late-game entertainment en route to winning several close games. They also hosted the Fox Sports-televised California Collegiate League All-Star Game on July 13 before a packed Stengel Field that had undergone numerous renovations shortly before the season began.

"We tried to be entertaining," said Riviera, whose team won a season-best nine games in a row during the second half of June. "We had the all-star game and that's something we'd like to have come back as early as next year.

"I'm extremely optimistic for the following years. We are already looking at next year. Everybody now knows who we are and there's a documentation of success that we have. I believe we now have the ability to talk to sponsors, the community and the chamber of commerce to gain more recognition."

The Angelenos, who ended their season winning four of their final six games, featured several players with local ties. Among them included Sako Chapjian, a Hoover High and Glendale Community College graduate.

Chapjian led the Angelenos with nine home runs and 31 runs batted in and was one of 10 Angelenos to participate in the all-star game.

"When it's the first team, sometimes it can be difficult to have success," said Chapjian, who hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning to give Glendale a 10-7 league victory against Conejo on July 1. "We played in a competitive league and two games under .500 is still pretty good.

"I was happy to be a part of this team and I don't think anybody will forget it."

Chad Nacapoy, a catcher, also earned a spot on the all-star team and excelled behind the plate handling a Glendale pitching staff that finished with a 4.30 earned-run average in the wooden-bat league.

Nacapoy batted .298 (31 for 104) with four home runs and 19 runs batted in. He drove in the winning run with an infield single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to give Glendale an 8-7 league win against Major League Baseball Academy Barons on Friday.

"We did pretty well for the first year," said Nacapoy, a Crescenta Valley High graduate now playing at Cal State Los Angeles. "We did well against the powerhouse teams in our league, like the Santa Barbara Foresters and San Luis Obispo Blues, and some of the other teams gave us a tough time because there are no pushovers in the league.

"We wanted to finish above .500 and hopefully we can come back and do that next year."

California Collegiate League Commissioner Pat Burns said the Angelenos have something to build off entering next season.

While Burns would like to see better attendance for the Angelenos next season, he said a foundation is now in place to attract more fans to Stengel Field.

"I had high expectations for Glendale," Burns said. "The league was strong and there was a lot of parity.

"It was a bit rough at first for the first-year teams, but it was a learning experience. Next year, I think Glendale will be better. The accounts were positive from the all-star game and it's nice to be able to showcase it to the nation. Maybe we can have the all-star game at Stengel Field again."

Outfielder Aaron Brown provided steady defense and batted a team-high .300 (42 for 140) for the Angelenos. The pitching standouts were Sean Wardour and Greg Fowler, who each won four games. Thomas Korn finished with a team-low 2.51 earned-run average and Wardour struck out 51 in 52 innings.

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