By, Brandon Rebboah
Note: Summer and baseball have always seemed to fit together perfectly. For fans of the game, summer is a time to enjoy the sights, sounds and atmosphere of America's pastime, but for college baseball players, it is a time for development. College players across the country, including members of the Santa Clara baseball squad, have already left for their summer experiences just weeks after finals as they begin preparation for the 2013 season.
After a much-improved 2012 campaign on the Mission Campus, Bronco ball players now occupy rosters throughout the nation in summer leagues that are helping them grow as players. Santa Clara is represented in nine different leagues from the Bay Area to New England, while others play for independent teams. The "All Summer Long" series, in its second season, will chronicle the Broncos as they play in various summer leagues nationwide, and in Canada as well.
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Even while spread out across the country, many Broncos are playing with their Santa Clara teammates as they prepare for the 2013 season. Stephen Takahashi and Chris Heckert are both gaining valuable experience with the San Luis Obispo Rattlers on California's central coast.
Takahashi, a proven asset in the outfield and on the basepaths, will return to the Mission Campus for his senior season in 2012-13. Heckert is trying to improve on his debut season at SCU in which he posted a 4.04 ERA in 15-plus innings of relief.
Takahashi, a 2009 graduate of Palos Verdes High School, missed an extended amount of time last spring with a broken finger that he suffered at Cal Poly early in the season. Takahashi was on an offensive tear before missing 30 games, and appeared in just 24 bouts during 2012. Although he missed the majority of the year, the Santa Clara outfielder hit .297 with 10 RBI. He also posted a .400 on-base percentage and stole four bases.
Currently, Takahashi is hitting .305 for the Rattlers with nine RBI and five stolen bases. On July 8, he started in center field for San Luis Obispo against the Marysville Gold Sox. Takahashi helped the Rattlers to a 7-2 victory, providing a RBI single in the first inning. The soon-to-be senior is having a great experience living with a host family and has really clicked with them.
"My host family is amazing," said Takahashi. "They love baseball and know a lot about the game. My host mom is named Tori, and has two daughters, Sarah and Eva, along with a son named Jake. Since our rivals are the [in-town San Luis Obispo] Blues, they said they would never go to a Blues game ... I thought that was pretty classy."
Takahashi, who has appeared in 94 games in a Santa Clara uniform over the past three seasons, is focusing on getting stronger to complement his tremendous speed. With help from Santa Clara baseball's Athletic Performance Coordinator, Ryan Leake, Takahashi is staying on a strict workout regiment to supplement the on-field experience he is getting this summer.
Takahashi is joined in San Luis Obispo by Heckert who is preparing for his redshirt sophomore campaign. The right-hander made 15 appearances out of the bullpen in 2012, posting a 1-0 record and 4.04 ERA. He earned his lone collegiate decision against Brown on Mar. 27, in which he tossed a perfect inning. Looking forward to next season, Heckert is in contention to be a valuable reliever for a promising Bronco pitching staff.
He is off to a good start for the Rattlers. Heckert has made six appearances for San Luis Obispo, posting a 1.74 ERA in 10-plus innings. The redshirt sophomore has been credited with two saves including a three-inning long-relief outing against Team Vegas in which he struck out three of the 10 batters he faced.
Check back to SantaClaraBroncos.com to find out where other current Bronco players are spending their summers in preparation for the 2013 Santa Clara season.