In June the UTPA baseball team announced that three Broncs were going to participate in the Collegiate Wooden Bat Summer Leagues from June to August.
The leagues involve unpaid amateur baseball players with at least one year of college experience and one year of athletic eligibility remaining.
This year first baseman Victor Garcia Jr., senior outfielder Evan Mason and senior pitcher Logan Landon decided to take their talent to a different team to contribute as much as they could.
UTPA Head Coach Manny Mantrana was excited for his players to earn the opportunity to compete at a higher level.
“Having our players play in these collegiate summer leagues is a great experience for them and also allows them to further develop their baseball abilities,” Mantrana said. “Our players will remember these summer seasons long after their playing days are over and we have found over the years that it is a great way for them to enhance and accelerate their baseball aptitude.”
Katy native Mason was in California where he played for the Atwater Aviators of the Golden State Collegiate Baseball League. He hit .265 with 17 RBI and had a .326 on base percentage when the season ended July 24.
In his first three games Mason had two walks, a double, two RBIs and one run scored. The Aviators went 19-31 and Mason played in 40 games, had 130 at bats with 36 hits and 23 runs and led the team with six home runs. Mason even made a couple of appearances at the mound, pitching two innings and earning a save.
Mason ended the season with the Aviators second in batting. Mantrana said he knows that he is showing consistency with the bat even though he was not brought into UTPA for his offense.
“Evan (Mason) was recruited as a defensive player and he played great defense for us last year. Any offense which (Mason) can generate will be a plus for our program,” Mantrana said.
As a Bronc, Mason averaged .265, 44 hits and 17 RBIs in the 2014 season.
Landon, who saw little action with the Broncs and only made six game apperances, is playing for his hometown baseball team in South Dakota the Sioux Falls Saints. He’s pitched 5.2 innings and allowed nine hits and 10 runs. The Saints have struggled this summer with a record of 10-19 as of July 24.
Mantrana knows how imperative it is for these three athletes to be part of a league.
“Summer baseball is beneficial to our players since they will get valuable playing time versus some of the best players in the country,” Mantrana said. “It will also enhance and promote their development as baseball players and give them a great experience that they will look back upon after their playing days are long over.”
Garcia is the third Bronc in a summer league playing for the Medford Rogues of the West Coast League since May 31.
In his debut he was able to make a splash going 2 for 4 with two home runs and four RBIs in a 7-3 victory over the Bend Elks. The Rogues have a 21-19 record and are five games behind the division leader as of July 26.
This season Garcia, a Plainfield, Ill. native, has a .270 batting average in 111 at-bats, third on the team 21 hits, leads in RBIs with 32 and had hit seven home runs.
With the Broncs as first baseman, Garcia had a .273 batting average after 47 hits in 172 at-bats.
“When we recruited Victor (Garcia) out of high school we felt that he would be a very good Division I baseball player,” Mantrana said. “He had a very nice freshman season and he is only going to get better and better as the years go by.”
Although Mantrana has these three Broncs continuing with their baseball career, he has goals for them next season.
“Having a successful off-season depends on what our goals were for our players. Some players need to get stronger, some need to get playing time and some just need to rest and get ready for the upcoming season,” he said. “We have different goals for each of our players during the summer months and we try to make sure that they are doing the things that they need to do in order to have a successful season the following year.”
Garcia was one freshman that made a difference for the Broncs and Mantrana believes that there is bound to be another gem in this year’s incoming class.
“We have a very good recruiting class coming in next year. It is without a doubt the best recruiting class we will bring in since we have been at UTPA,” Mantrana said. “We feel that all of the players that are coming in next year will have an impact in our program. So I would say to just keep an eye on all of them.”