by Larry Ham
With the Major League Baseball season almost here, it seemed a perfect time to see what’s going on with local baseball. This week we interviewed Reedley College Baseball coach Steve Pearse and next week we will have an article on baseball at Immanuel.
Reedley College Baseball coach Steve Pearse knows what it takes to build a successful college baseball program. He came to Reedley College three years ago from UCLA–one of the most distinguished programs in the nation. He also played baseball at Fresno State, another successful program. Although the Tigers are off to a slow start this season, the signs are already there that Reedley College baseball is on the way back to prominence. Coach Pearse recently took some time to answer a few questions.
Larry: First, tell us where you grew up, how you got involved in sports, and your career before you got to Reedley College.
Steve: I grew up in the Bay Area and I had an older sister, two older brothers, and a younger brother. My dad was a football and baseball coach at Berkeley HS and then got the head baseball coaching job at Laney College in Oakland. So we grew up around football, basketball and baseball whatever was in season. When you have older brothers you learn at a young age that you have to be very competitive to be able to stay up if you wanted to play. I think it helped develop mental toughness because they weren’t easy on me which is exactly what I needed.
Larry: I’ve noticed in other sports that the fundamentals seem to be less emphasized in youth programs than in past years. Is that true in baseball as well? Is there still a need to stress fundamentals in baseball?
Steve: We are in an era where a lot of people want a quick fix with everything in society. Fundamentals are the staple for any successful sports programs from youth league all the way through the professionals. That’s why they have preseason games and spring training. Fundamentals give you a foundation in any sport so you have something to go back to when you aren’t performing at the level you should be.
Larry: When you’re recruiting players for Reedley College, what are you specifically looking for, aside from talent?
Steve: Besides talent when we go out looking for players, we also look for high character people that have a strong will to succeed.
Larry: Junior College baseball has not gotten the same exposure as some other sports, and that’s a real shame. What can be done to get more people excited about JC baseball?
Steve: I feel that JC Baseball is a good product and I think when you have a program that the community can get behind they feel a connection with the players. Also having a nice facility, that makes it an enjoyable experience to come out and watch, is very important.
Larry: Reedley College has seen some great examples of program building in that past decade or so. Michael White built the football program into a national power. Can you do the same thing in baseball?
Steve: What Coach White and his staff did in 2002 was one of the most impressive runs in Valley sports history. It showed it can be done and he obviously recruited some very special athletes that had a special season.
Larry: I have to ask you this one too: What’s your opinion on metal bats? The controversy seems to have died down in recent years.
Steve: In 2011 metal bats were toned down considerably to act more like wood bats. I don’t think we have enough trees in America to have high school and college baseball turn to wood. It would be great to see but I don’t think that will ever happen in our lifetime.
Larry: What is your goal for your players at Reedley College?
Steve: My goal for all of my players is to maximize their ability level in the classroom and on the field, and to become a team. I want them to enjoy everything that the game has to offer and it offers them life lessons. I want all the players to move on to a four year school and graduate. I want our players to develop and win.
Larry: When it comes to a player’s future pro possibilities, can you tell early on whether a player has a future beyond JC baseball, or does it take a while?
Steve: Most of the time we get kids that aren’t ready athletically or academically to go to a four year school out of high school. That is why this level is so important for them to develop as students and players. We have the fall to see if these kids can develop both in the classroom and on the field. This is why the junior college system is so important. It allows them the opportunity to try and become a better student and athlete, and we have the resources on campus for them to do both. At the end of the day it is up to the players to learn how to motivate themselves and challenge themselves. We assist in the process, but it always comes down to how much do they want to get out of it. That is where a disciplined program, that holds them to a high standard, can help aid in the process. When that is all said and done, we want them to have the drive to reach the next level.
Larry: Finally, where do you want the baseball program at RC to be in ten years?
Steve: In 10 years I would like to see the Reedley College program competing for a final four appearances and challenging for state championships. If that is happening than you will see a lot more players moving on to four year schools, and recruits will see Reedley College as place that they want to go to. I also want to see the facility keep improving and get a ballpark similar to that in the Clovis Unified District. That will open a lot of doors for recruits to continue their academic and athletic careers here. I think winning is important and everybody always wants to be associated with a winner.
I would encourage any baseball fan reading this article to go to the Reedley College website and check out the baseball schedule. Then get out and support the Tigers. The baseball is high quality, and the players deserve our support. My thanks to Coach Pearse for his time.