Aside from going independent after severing ties with the California Collegiate League last winter, the Glendale Angelenos didn't change a whole lot about their approach to fielding a summer collegiate baseball team.
Most of the frontline players from last year's inaugural season are back and General Manager and Coach Tony Riviera has continued to heavily mine talent from Glendale Community College's ranks to fill in the rest of the lineup.
"Probably the most important part of baseball is consistency, so what I wanted to make sure of is that we had the opportunity to put up a really talented season," said Riviera, whose team will once again play its home games at Stengel Field, where it opens the season at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday against the EastL.A. Dodgersof the Norwalk Santa Fe Springs Baseball League. "We do that by bringing in the players that we know we can count on and we know are true, solid baseball players."
Back is the core of the batting order, hitters Nos. 2-4, in first baseman Ellis Whitman, catcher Chad Nacapoy and utility Sako Chapjian and starting infielders Matthew Tellesco (Fresno College) and Ruben Padilla (GCC) are back for another go.
Whitman and Chapjian, a Hoover High graduate, both starred at Glendale college during its 2011 run to the state semifinals before moving on to play at Cal State Dominguez Hills in 2012, while Nacapoy, a Crescenta Valley alum, just concluded his career at Cal State L.A.
Chapjian led last year's Angelenos, who went 24-26 overall and 11-25 in the CCL, with nine home runs and 31 runs batted in and was a CCL All-Star along with Nacapoy and Whitman.
The pitching staff brings back its top two starters from last year in Sean Wardour (CSUDH) and Greg Fowler (CSUDH), who each won four games and made the All-Star team, while All-Star reliever Thomas Korn (York College), another former Vaquero, is also back.
"We have a lot of returners, so that is really nice," Whitman said. "Everybody that is returning, we're all excited to see each other. We know we can play well together and, to be honest, we're ready to go and have fun."
The list of returners is bolstered by some promising new talent, including Occidental College standout Scott Hong, who will bat leadoff, and GCC's Matt McCalister, who will anchor the infield defense at shortstop.
"Matt McCalister is probably one of the top middle infielders in the state," Riviera said of the UNLV-bound Vaquero. "He brings a tremendous amount of defense and just good baseball savvy."
Hong was expected to be a major part of last year's Angelenos, but broke his ankle while playing with GCC and missed the entire summer. He rebounded to lead the Tigers to their winningest season in 22 years, while leading the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in stolen bases.
"Scott Hong is probably one of the most exciting players that fans will see out there," Riviera said. "He was a huge loss for us last year. Having him back healthy and in the leadoff spot ensures the fact that we'll have a really good table setter."
In all, the Angelenos roster features 11 players from the 2012 Glendale college team that went 27-10 and won a second-straight Western State Conference South Division title, including pitchers Corey Popham, Greg Astor, Alonzo Gonzalez, Ben Kim, David Lira and Sam Frakes, outfielders Edgar Montes and John Schwer and infielder Julian Jarrard.
"There truly is a synergy between the Angelenos and Glendale college," Riviera said. "They've won two conference championships back to back, which they've never experienced before and I think that our job in the summer is to get those Glendale freshmen much better so they return back to [GCC] Coach [Chris] Cicuto as more experienced sophomores. We've got a responsibility to get kids who are not committed to schools to go over and play at Glendale college. ...We feed off each other."
Also new on board is assistant Andrez Perez Thomas, a former shortstop with the Atlanta Braves and veteran minor league coach and personal instructor.
"He's just a great baseball guy," Riviera said of Thomas. "He's a great, great teacher and he's going to bring something to the table in Glendale that guys haven't seen before."
The Angelenos, who will be an independent team this season, will play a 47-game schedule against teams from various collegiate leagues, including the CCL and Orange County and Southern California collegiate leagues.
"We definitely plan on winning a lot more this year and hopefully bringing some more fans out to the stands," Whitman said.