The Cabrillo Jaguars made it just 10 games into the Phillip Berman era before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 2020 season. In year two, Berman and his team are still navigating the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, with a thin and inexperienced roster for the 2021 season.
“It’s tough right now. Our roster is thin, we only have 10 guys,” said Berman of this year’s squad. “The fortunate thing is everyone is going to get to play. But it’s tough figuring out the right combinations. We just don’t have much depth and we’re really young.”
Even with the limited roster, Berman is hoping to instill a hard-working, blue collar culture in the Jags’ program. His limited time at the helm has been turbulent due to COVID-19 interruptions, but the former Jordan High standout is preaching resiliency with his players.
“No matter what the score is, all I can ask of our guys to keep playing hard,” Berman said. “Just have fun and try to get better every day. One of the messages I’ve told my guys while I’ve been here is when things get tough, don’t take the easy road. Just try to push through, keep your head down and fight through it.”
Cabrillo had a senior-heavy roster in 2020, meaning there’s a lot of production to replace including longtime ace, Dylan Gambino.
One of the veterans on the squad who will be counted on as a key contributor is senior third baseman Tyler Harvey, Jr. After starting for the Jags as a freshman, he missed last year due to injury, but he’s got big power in the heart of the Cabrillo batting order.
“He’s a quiet leader, and he really buys into what we’ve said,” Berman said of his senior leader. “I think he’s going to surprise some people. He’s been hitting the ball out at Cabrillo since summer before freshman year.”
Senior RJ Ruiz is a hard worker in center field who is one of the first guys at practice and often stays for extra reps in the outfield. Jesus Barron is a junior who is a three-year starter for Cabrillo. A natural middle infielder, he’s transitioned to playing behind the plate for the Jags and has showcased some strong leadership skills as well.
At first base, senior Tyler Otero will hit cleanup and will be one of the top contributors on the mound. He’ll be joined in the pitching staff by Yestin Castro, who has had success at the JV level and will look to be a consistent strike-thrower on varsity to keep the Jags in games.
As a Moore League product, Berman is looking to connect with the community and put in a long-term plan for the Cabrillo program. External factors have made the start of his tenure a challenge, but he hopes this season will be the start of a rebuilding effort for the Jags.
“Ultimately, my goal is to get out in the West Long Beach baseball community and let people know who I am,” Berman explained. “I’m a Long Beach guy and we want to keep that talent coming to Cabrillo instead of going to other schools in the Moore League. That’s one of my big goals for this year.”