BERKELEY -The California baseball program began its preparation for the 2013 season with the start of 2012 fall practice Friday (Sept. 7) at Evans Diamond. The Golden Bears, led by head coach David Esquer in his 14th season and featuring 11 members of the 2011 College World Series squad, will conclude their fall practice schedule with the annual Alumni Game on Sunday, Oct. 21 as part of the Oct. 20-22 Alumni Weekend.
The Cal squad returns two All-American left-handers in Justin Jones, who was a freshman All-American in 2010, and Kyle Porter, a freshman All-American in 2011. The Bears also feature junior catcher Andrew Knapp, who was outstanding this past summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League for the Chatham Anglers. Knapp batted .293 with 13 doubles, eight home runs and 29 RBI in 40 games. He had led the Northwoods League in hitting in 2011, batting .500 with five home runs and 33 RBI.
Two other members of the 2013 Bears played well this summer - sophomore infielder Chris Paul for St. Cloud (Minn.) and sophomore right-handed junior college transfer Dylan Nelson for Rochester of the Northwoods League. Paul batted .271 in 42 games and led the Northwoods League with 20 doubles, along with six triples, a home run and 26 RBI. Nelson, who will be a sophomore in the spring after transferring from College of San Mateo, had 39 strikeouts in 32.0 innings for the Honkers.
Standout junior first baseman Devon Rodriguez returns after sitting out the majoring of the 2012 season with a knee injury. Rodriguez earned Most Outstanding Player of the 2011 Houston Regional after knocking in the game-winning hit in Cal's dramatic come-from-behind victory over Baylor to advance the Bears to the 2011 Super Regionals, hosted by Cal at Santa Clara's Schott Stadium.
The Bears will also be welcoming in 13 newcomers, with eight earlier letters of intent signees Cal Baseball Signs Eight that include outfielder/first baseman Nick Halamandaris, an eighth round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners. Cal's group of newcomers also includes freshman outfielder Devin Pearson from Carmel, Calif. Devin Pearson Feature.
"We are excited to begin fall practice," said Esquer, the 2011 National Coach of the Year. "We are starting fall practice earlier than normal, which is great because it gives up a chance to evaluate our players right away and work on our team's improvement. With a lot of young players, improvement is going to be a key to us having a successful season in the spring."
The schedule for the 2013 Cal baseball team is still being finalized, but the Bears will be hosting a three-game series against Michigan, Feb. 15-17 at Evans Diamond, to start the 2013 campaign. Cal will also be hosting exciting Pac-12 series versus USC, Oregon, Washington State, Arizona State and Stanford. Baseball fans should be on the lookout for the announcement of the date of one Cal baseball's special events as well - the second annual Fanfest at Evans Diamond.