It would have been easy for the Cabrillo baseball team to wave the white flag last season. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic hit West Long Beach hard, leaving the Jaguars with just 10 varsity players in 2021.
Nonetheless, Cabrillo navigated a full season under head coach Phillip Berman, who is now entering his third year at the helm. Berman took over the program late in 2019, and coached just 10 games before COVID shut down the 2020 season. Then after having just one bench player for all of 2021, things are starting to look up this spring.
The varsity roster has almost doubled from a year ago, and a crop of exciting young players has Berman and the Jags optimistic for this season and beyond. Berman hopes this group of seniors is able to restore the program to where it was pre-pandemic, when the Jags put scares into Poly, Millikan and Wilson in close games.
“We have a lot of young guys this year, but the core of this team are the guys that were freshmen when we were giving teams tough games,” Berman explained. “We obviously want to get over the hump and we want to beat one of the top teams, that’s our goal. We’re not happy with just being competitive anymore. We have the depth now, we feel like we’re a real team, and we want to earn our respect and prove ourselves this year.”
That senior core will line the infield as Carlos Monreal starts at first base, Jesus Barron starts at shortstop and Tyler Harvey once again holds down third base.
“Last year didn’t go as well as my other two years, but this year is going to be a lot better,” said Monreal, who will also be a key left-handed bullpen arm for the Jags. “We have a lot of newer kids that will make a big impact for the team. We’re ready to play and have a lot of fun and show everybody the talent that we have.”
Harvey has been a four-year varsity player for the Jags who will again man the hot corner and also close games out of the bullpen. For Berman, it’s important to have a veteran presence on the left side of the infield and in the heart of the batting order.
“He knows what to expect and it’s almost like having an extra coach out on the field,” said Berman of Harvey. “If I’m not around, he can tell guys what to do and how we do things here. He’s just exactly what you want out of a leader: he doesn’t get too high. doesn’t get too low, he’s just really even keel and has been through a lot here.”
Barron will be a key contributor at shortstop and on the mound, but freshman Matthew Garcia may step into the ace role in his first year. Barron got a bunch of varsity pitching experience last season and will be a key arm for the Jags once again, but Berman likes Garcia’s potential. He made the Whaley PONY All-Star team last year and looks ready to contribute at the varsity level.
“He’s gonna have a lot of success for us throwing his changeup,” Berman said of Garcia. “He’s still a freshman, so he doesn’t have the greatest velocity, but I think his changeup is really gonna work well for us keeping hitters off balance. Plus, he’s fast, versatile, he’s just an athlete. He’s gonna be a solid player for us.”
Another key newcomer for the Jags will be in center field, where junior Aaron Strawberry adds an exciting talent to the league after transferring from Georgia. Aaron is the nephew of eight-time MLB All-Star outfielder Darryl Strawberry, and Berman calls him an exceptional athlete who will cover a ton of ground on defense.
“It’s awesome to see a player of that caliber stick around here,” Berman said. “He’s just an awesome guy and really buys into what we’re trying to do here. I can’t wait to see him tracking balls down in center field.”
The Jags will open Moore League play on March 9 against Lakewood in the first game of a Blair Field doubleheader. During the league schedule, Cabrillo is scheduled to have five games on its home field–the most of any team in the league–with another five scheduled to be played at Blair.
Projected Starting Lineup:
C – Gustavo Sinsun (Sr.)
1B – Carlos Monreal (Sr.)
2B – Frankie Rios (So.) / Moises Figueroa (Jr.)
SS – Jesus Barron (Sr.)
3B – Tyler Harvey (Sr.)
LF – Amador Herrera (Jr.)
CF – Aaron Strawberry (Jr.)
RF – Vince Sinsun (Jr.)
P – Mathew Garcia (Fr.) / Barron / Monreal / Harvey